Surat An-Nūr

What is the Qur'an About?

Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma`ani
Syed Iqbal Zaheer

تفسير إِشراقُ المَعَاني
سيد إقبال ظهير


What is the Qur'an About?
The Qur'an is the Word of Allah and a Book of Guidance. It can be asked, guidance to what? The answer is: “Guidance to Allah Most High, His Attributes, His Will, and the way in which one may conduct oneself to obtain that approval (rida) of Allah after which there is no anger." Imam Shafe`i perhaps had the first part of this statement in mind when he said:

"All that (the scholars of) the Ummah have to say is nothing but the exposition of the Sunnah. All that is in the Sunnah is the exposition of the Qur'an. And the whole of the Qur'an is nothing but the exposition of the Names and Attributes of Allah" (Zarkashi: Al‑Burhan Fi `Ulum al‑Qur'an).

This guidance to Allah, the knowledge of His Attributes and Will, and the guidance to right conduct cannot be obtained by any means other than the Qur'an and its complementary, the Sunnah, (the sayings and practices of Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him).
The Qur'an is also the only source of guidance. Someone who is unaware of its existence, but is a seeker of Truth, (on account of his innate faith in God and disillusionment with the world), will be led to this Book, one way or the other. The Qur'an says (29: 69): "Those who strive in Us, We shall surely guide them unto Our paths."

What is Guidance?
From another angle, it might be said that being on the guidance is to know, acknowledge, and, live by the Truth. In the context of this life, it is
a) the knowledge of what one is required to do, in the right measure, at any particular moment, and
b) the will to live by that knowledge.
In one sense, then, Guidance is knowledge, and in another, the will to act by it. The ‘will to act' is not the same as the ‘power to act.' That is because man has been granted will (or the freedom of choice) in a limited framework, while all power is Allah's. The power, or ability to act ‑ referred to as tawfiq in Islamic terminology ‑ is granted when willingness is demonstrated.
Further, since there is no such thing as half‑guidance, both are essential for salvation: knowledge without the will to act is only an evidence against one's self (hujjah), and deeds (however pretty their appearance), are grains thrown in the sand if they go without the acknowledgement of the Truth.
The Qur'an guides in both the senses. It bestows knowledge (or 'ilm wa 'irfan), giving the seeker the proper concept of the truth, as well as the will‑power and the moral courage to produce a living model of that concept in his own person, overcoming the obstacles he might encounter from within or without.
No other book, writing, philosophy, or person can achieve this. There should be no doubt about it; for any ambiguity in this regard can deprive one of the fruits of study and application.
The above definition illustrates and emphasizes the external, physical, and ephemeral aspect. Guidance has an esoteric, transcendent, and eternal meaning also, which is the fruit and essence of the external aspect. It is that state of mind and soul in which the other world becomes dearer than this one, in which, one eagerly awaits to be transported to the other world in order to heal that pain in the heart, and quench that thirst of the soul which only the company of those on High can heal and quench.
It is when one begins to ‘wait for the next salah after the last one,' when one ‘remembers Allah in his seclusion and the remembrance brings tears to his eyes,' when Allah becomes so dear that one begins to ‘love for Allah and hate for Allah,' and, when ‘the state of sabr and shukr become one and the same,' then it is that a person can said to be, in the words of the Qur'an, "on a guidance from his Lord."

The Path of Knowledge
A hadith of the Prophet (saws) says: "I am leaving behind me two things. So long as you hold fast unto them, you will not be misguided: they are Allah's Book and my practices." Nevertheless, this oft‑quoted hadith is rarely treated seriously. People apply themselves with great fervor to books, writings, speeches and ideologies presented by the scholars of Islam, but not as often do they leave them and their influences aside to turn directly to the Qur'an in complete seriousness. They do not seem to realize that they are not guided by those books and writings but to the extent that they themselves contain the Qur'an and the Sunnah in their pure form and unadulterated meaning.
Further, even when the Qur'an is studied, it is mostly done through the eyes, minds, and explanations of the scholars. The knowledge derived is, therefore, at best second‑hand, vicarious, and not wholly trustworthy. Again, a study of the Qur'an after a lot of other literature has been read has the disadvantage of the earlier readings embossing on the mind impressions that do not allow for the new ones to take place in their pristine form. The result is a jumble of concepts, true, half true, and false.
Alternatively, the Qur'an is read with pre‑conceived ideas. Human ideas are then taken for Divine ideas with citation of Qur’anic verses as evidences.
There are a few other characteristics that distinguish the Qur'an from all other kinds of writings. Firstly, the knowledge that the Qur'an imparts is the true and infallible knowledge. Secondly, the Qur'an succeeds in communicating the ideas it holds. That is, the reader cannot miss the meaning that it intends to communicate. Provided one is sincere, no one can miss its guidance, or, led to a meaning and understanding not intended. That happens with writings other than the Divine; humans say one thing, and the audience understand another thing. Moreover, through its intricate sequencing of the texts, the Qur’an answers to the doubts that arise, so to say, on the spot, and registers its meaning and message without adulteration of doubts menacing the mind, or skeptical notes lying beneath like snakes in the grass.
Therefore, to obtain true knowledge and right guidance from the Qur'an the requirement is to do away with preconceived ideas and study it with the firm intention to live by the meaning as it unfolds itself. With that kind of intention, the student is qualified to receive the true meaning. The meaning obtained is also accompanied by an urge to live by it, which then is the next requirement. That accomplished, that is, the meaning translated into action, the reader demonstrates purity of intention. In consequence, he qualifies to receive a fresh set of true meaning which unfolds themselves with further reading. This goes on until the student reaches that state which has been described in a hadith by Allah (swt) Himself in words, “I become the hands of the slave with which he grips, the feet of the slave with which he walks ... (to the end of the hadith).” But if he fails, that is, he is not true to himself at any given phase, or discontinues the process, then the tawfiq is held back until he amends his ways. The Qur’an has said (7: 146):

{سَأَصْرِفُ عَنْ آيَاتِيَ الَّذِينَ يَتَكَبَّرُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَإِنْ يَرَوْا كُلَّ آيَةٍ لَا يُؤْمِنُوا بِهَا وَإِنْ يَرَوْا سَبِيلَ الرُّشْدِ لَا يَتَّخِذُوهُ سَبِيلًا وَإِنْ يَرَوْا سَبِيلَ الْغَيِّ يَتَّخِذُوهُ سَبِيلًا ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا وَكَانُوا عَنْهَا غَافِلِينَ} [الأعراف: 146]

“I shall turn away from My signs those who wax proud in the land without cause. If they witnessed all the signs, they will not believe in them, and, if they see the path of righteousness, they will not accept it as a path. But if they see the deviated path, they will accept it as a path. That, because they gave a lie to Our signs and were heedless of them.”

How to Obtain the Right Verbal Meaning?
It is to seek guidance, in the sense delineated above, that one should read the Qur'an. That should be the intention in every session with it.
Dr. Muhammad Iqbal's father well illustrated this point when he asked his son, who was reciting the Qur'an, as to what he was reading. The young son, knowing that the father was aware what he was reading, responded with an indifferent answer. “Who was it revealed to?” was the next question. The embarrassed son replied that it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace). “This way, my son,” said the father, “you will never profit from the Qur'an. You will only if you read with the belief that the Revelation has just come down, that it has been sent down specifically for you, and that it is you who has been addressed. It is only then that this Book will open itself to you.”
In other words, one should take it as a message unto himself, and allow each verse of the Qur'an free and unhindered access to the mind and heart with the will to be led where it will lead.

In contrast to other revealed Books and religious literatures, in whatever form and language they may exist, the Qur'an should not only be read by oneself, directly, but also in its own language ‑ Arabic. No commentary, however comprehensive, and no exegete, however erudite, can impart what the Qur'an itself can. The following reasons will illustrate the point.

The Miraculous nature of the Qur'an
It is well known that the Qur'an is a miracle. In fact, it is a living miracle; although the true nature of the miracle is not always understood. We cannot elaborate on this point extensively at this juncture. But it might be pointed out that the miracle expresses itself both in its form as well in its content. Both are powerful, unique to the Qur'an, which defy translation. The Prophet said: "Every prophet before me was given a miracle. I have been given the Qur'an. And I hope to have a greater following by its virtue than any prophet of the past."
Consequently, thousands of people from all over the globe are led to Islam every year through their study of the Qur'an. When a non‑Muslim asks a Muslim about Islam, all that he does in most cases is to hand him over a copy of the Qur'an. Invariably, even that mangled thing called ‘the translation of the Qur'an' leads the person to Islam. That is the miracle of the Qur'an. And of course, miracles cannot be translated.
Let us look into a few reasons that make impossible to communicate what the Qur'an itself communicates.

The Qur'an is in Arabic. It is neither in prose nor in verse but a unique combination of both, unsurpassed in its effect on the mind and soul by any other writing. In the words of John Alden Williams:

"...the Arabic of the Qur'an is by turns striking, soaring, vivid, terrible, tender, and breathtaking ... It is meaningless to apply adjectives such as ‘beautiful' or ‘persuasive' to the Qur'an; its flashing images and inexorable measures go directly to the brain and intoxicate it.
It is not surprising, then, that a skilled reciter of the Qur'an can reduce an Arabic‑speaking audience to helpless tears" (Islam: p.2, Washington Square Press '69).

In the words of Arberry:

"... to produce something which might be accepted as echoing however faintly the sublime rhetoric of the Arabic Koran, I have been at pains to study the intricate and richly varied rhythms which ‑ apart from the message itself ‑ constitute the Koran's undeniable claim to rank amongst the greatest literary masterpieces of mankind" (The Koran Interpreted, Intr. p. x, Oxford Univ. Press '64).

It is this inimitable beauty that challenges mankind to produce its equivalent: in sublimity of language, its instructions, and its sublime effect on the mind and soul. The Qur'anic challenge has remained unanswered by the humans (2: 23, 24):

"O People! If you are in any doubt concerning what We have sent down on Our slave (Muhammad), then produce a piece similar to it (in all its merits). And call (to your aid) your witnesses apart from Allah, if you are true (in your allegation that it is the work of Muhammad). But if you cannot do it ‑ and you can never do it ‑ then beware of the Fire whose fuel is human beings and rocks: prepared for the unbelievers."

The Qur'an then is inimitable and, therefore, untranslatable. Any translation, however accurately done, and however close to the original, cannot reproduce the sense and beauty of the original. Therefore, when one is reading a translation, he is not reading the Qur'an per se. No surprise then that the best effects are lost. No wonder also that the scholars of old would not allow translation of the Qur'an. This is also Ibn Taymiyyah's opinion. In fact there is a consensus of opinion among the scholars that the Qur'an should not be quoted in ‘sense' or ‘meaning' but always in its original textual words. How can then one be allowed to translate the Qur'an and call it the Qur'an?
Accordingly, if permission to translate the Qur'an has been granted due to modern exigencies, it is on condition that sufficient notes are supplied to overcome the deficiencies arising out of the translation. Further, it is required that the new work be called "interpretative translation of the Qur'an" (tarjumah tafsiriyyah), or, "the translation of the meaning of the Qur'an," rather than "the translation of the Qur'an" or, what would be more audacious, "the meaning of the Qur'an," since none of these are within human power (Manahil al `Irfan, Zarqani).

Linguistic Difficulties
There are many linguistic difficulties that make the Qur'an untranslatable. In Arabic one expresses sense rather than meaning. A beautiful Arabic sentence that can enrapture the mind and touch the soul becomes insipid in another language. Not only sentences or words, even single consonant letters are hard to translate. For example, the "fi" of Arabic has a depth that is lacking in the "in" of English. One needs a whole ugly, terse, and unmusical word in English to translate mere letters such as:

و ف إنَّ

Obviously, the complications with the words are far greater than those with the letters. Arabic is a language in which words are based on consonantal roots, from which are derived scores of words in various forms giving out various meanings but remaining, even if loosely and distantly, connected in sense and letter‑content to the root. `Ayn for instance can mean: an eye, a spring, a spy, a group of people, evil‑eye, honor, a flag, a girl, etc. `Afw stands for effacement, obliteration, elimination, forgiveness, amnesty, boon, kindness, favor, surplus, and others. The translated word must on the one hand give out the basic meaning and, on the other, convey several nuances the original carries. Obviously, to achieve that is well‑nigh impossible.
Let us take an example (4: 4):

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً [النساء : 4]

"Give the women their dowries (as a gift) spontaneous,"
In this example, the word saduqat is derived from the root sadaqa ( صَدَقَ ) which means, with the addition of various suffixes or prefixes: ‘to speak the truth, to be sincere, to prove to be true, to come true, to fulfill one's promise,' and so on. Now, a true translation of the derived term saduqa, (plural: saduqat صَدُقات ), should carry in its overtones the sense of truth and sincerity. That is, ‘a gift that is offered (by the groom to the bride), as an expression of his sincerity toward her and the relationship he is proposing.' To render it as dowry, with the connotation that the language and culture of the readers carry, is to mutilate it.
In addition to the problem of words that yield several meanings, the complex structure of the Qur'anic verses admit of many interpretations (well described by Muhammad Asad as unfolding of "layer upon layer of meaning") from which the translator can choose but one, without necessarily being right in his choice. This means that, granted the translator did not err, the translation conveyed only one meaning out of the several contained in the Qur'an.
As another example, the following is speaking of the unbelievers (11: 20):

يُضَاعَفُ لَهُمُ الْعَذَابُ مَا كَانُوا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ السَّمْعَ وَمَا كَانُوا يُبْصِرُونَ [هود : 20]

"For them the chastisement shall be doubled; (for) they could not hear, neither did they see."
It can be translated in at least six different ways, three of them depending on how the letter "maa" is treated: whether of the same meaning as "lamu kayy," ( لامُ كَي ); as a synonym of "ila," ( إلى ); or as a negative "maa". Obviously such possibilities, which occur quite often, can leave the translator baffled as to his own choice during translation.
Another linguistic difficulty is that many Arabic and Qur'anic terms do not have proper equivalents in other languages, especially the languages of the occident. Allah, al‑Rahman, al‑Rahim, jihad, salah, zakah, sadaqah, `ibadah, al‑ghayb, kufr, nur, fisq, taghut, nabiyy, rasul, ghaniyy, are a few examples from a long list.
If, to the above are added the difficulties of `ijaz (ellipticism), rhetoric, alliteration, resonance and rhythm (all of them present in the Qur'an in their most excellent forms and in the highest degree of expression), then the job of translation becomes a hopeless task.
But the impaired meaning is not the only casualty. The loss in terms of beauty, charm, appeal, elation and the ecstasy that a reader feels on reading the Qur'an in its original is immeasurable.
Therefore, it can be safely said of a person who has always read the Qur'an through translations alone, that he did not read the Qur'an once.

Trying to understand the Qur'an with the help of commentaries is no less hazardous. Some reasons are as follows.
Essentially, commentaries are of two kinds. Those that are based on the Qur'an itself, supported by the hadith and opinions of the Companions, or their next‑generation Followers (tabe`iyyun). These are known as al‑tafsir bi 'l ma'thur ( التفسير بالمأثور ) i.e., interpretation based on report or tradition.
The other category is the one in which the commentator offers an interpretation, based not on a specific accepted source ‑ a Qur'anic verse, a hadith, or a remark of a Companion or one of their Followers ‑ but his personal opinion based on his intellect, knowledge or intuition. This kind of commentary is known as al‑tafsir bi 'l ra'yi ( التفسير بالرأي ). al‑tafsir 'l‑ishari [ التفسير الإشاري ] falls under the same category).
As for the first kind of tafsir, i.e., al‑tafsir bi 'l ma'thur, it can be fully appreciated only when read in Arabic. Many concepts and ideas of the Qur'an are closely tied up with the Arabic language. Further, those concepts and ideas are so subtle that their explanations fall flat and lose their import in another language. The commentaries of Ibn Jarir or Ibn Kathir, for example (which are good examples of the al‑tafsir bi 'l ma'thur) fail to have their impact on the reader in their translated version. Besides, some basic knowledge of hadith classification, fiqh and other disciplines, which in turn require knowledge of Arabic, is necessary to appreciate this kind of commentary.
In short al-tafsir bi ‘l ma’thur does not help much in understanding the core meanings of the Qur’anic texts. The profound part is often missed.
On the other hand, if one tries to understand the Qur'an with the help of the other kind of tafsir, viz. al‑tafsir bi 'l ra'yi, he faces the following hazards.
Firstly, to be able to correctly comment on the Qur'an, one has to have, in addition to the Revealed texts, a thorough knowledge of all the physical and metaphysical sciences and disciplines that have been developed by the humans. The Qur'an deals with history, law, social affairs, morality, worship, economy, psychology, state affairs, spiritual development, eschatology, divinity, and many other disciplines ‑ all in one go. Obviously, since it is beyond one man's capacity to master so many disciplines in a life‑time, it is beyond him also to write a commentary of the Qur'an that conveys the true intent of the Qur’an.
Further, every commentator is a product of his own age, genre, intellectual atmosphere, and cultural background. His problems are the problems of his time ‑ not necessarily of all times. His view of life is from a certain angle ‑ not necessarily the ecumenical and transcendental view of the Qur'an. (So, we often hear from such commentators that “the Qur’an lays down the way of life”: which immediately reduces its message to mundane level. Had they said it lays down the ways to moral and spiritual life, they would have been closer to truth). Such commentators are led, and cannot help but be led, by their personal predispositions and bent of mind, appealing to those of similar dispositions, and not necessarily reaching out to all the inquisitive minds and thirsty souls. Finally, whatever a commentator’s caliber, he remains subjective. True objectivity is not the share of man.
For example, if he is of a sufi bent of mind he detects suggestions that may or may not exist. If he subscribes to a certain philosophy, he may emphasize a certain point, which might be there in the text, but might not be it focal point. Thereby he distorts the overall view. Or, if his interpretation of life is materialistic and earthly, he is quite likely to rush through verses that are, so to say, mawarid al zam'an (watering places for the thirsty), and the hovering grounds of the restless soul, concentrating instead on the wonderful capabilities of Islam to promote material growth and development on earth and bring back to the Muslim Ummah its lost glory!
In short, he is a human dealing with the Word of Allah. To do justice to it is not in his power.
Finally, it is agreed by the scholars of Islam that there are two aspects to the meaning of the Qur'an: the external and the internal. The external or the obvious meaning is that which has come down from the authorities: the hadith, the opinions of the Companions, their next‑generation Followers and the meaning unanimously accepted by the scholars of Islam through and through the ages. The internal, hidden or the secret meaning of the Qur'an comes from deep reflection and a sustained exercise of the mind and soul coupled with righteous living. To take an example, it is reported that the verse (5: 3): "This day I have perfected your religion for you and completed My favor unto you, and have chosen for you as religion al‑Islam," brought tears into the eyes of `Umar ibn al-Khattab The Prophet asked him the reason. He replied: "So far we were witnessing a continuous rise of Islam. Now that it has been completed (i.e. it has reached its zenith), it can only follow a downward direction, as it happens with anything that has achieved its zenith." The Prophet (saws) agreed with him.
Imam Ghazali writes in his eighth book of Ihya' `Ulum 'l‑Din:

"The truth is that to everything pertaining to reflective and intellectual matters, which have become ambiguous to men of reflection, and in which people have differed, there are indications and implications in the Qur'an which can be observed by men of understanding. How can these indications and implications be completely conveyed by translations of its outward meanings and its (outward) exegesis?"

Further down he writes:

"The man who imagines that the Qur'an has no meaning except that which the outward exegesis has translated (and described), is acknowledging his own limitations; he is right in his acknowledgement (because he knows only this measure and is not aware of that which lies beyond this), but is wrong in his judgment which places all other people on the same footing as himself." (The Recitation and Interpretation of the Qur'an: Al-Ghazali's Theory by Muhammad Abdul Quasem, p. 87, 88).

Nevertheless, the scholars are also in agreement that the internal meaning can be attained only after a complete mastery of the external has been achieved. Zarkashi writes:

"The Book of Allah: it is the bottomless sea, whose meaning cannot be unfathomed but by the well-versed in (religious) knowledge; he who fears Allah in open and secret, and gives due esteem to Him in places where he comes across the ambiguous. Its subtleties and truths cannot be grasped but by one who (as the Qur’an said) ‘lends his ear and is attentive...'"

He adds a little further,

"All knowledge can be summed up as that of the ‘Acts' and ‘Attributes' of Allah. The Qur'an contains the knowledge of the Acts, Attributes, and the Essence of the Supreme Being. This fact leads us to another, viz., the field of knowledge is immensely vast. There is room for much more than what is obvious to the mind. The exegesis therefore, that has been passed on to us (by the authorities) do not lay down limits for the attainment of knowledge. Yet, it is not possible to jump over to the hidden without mastery of the obvious. Indeed, the knowledge of the external is absolutely essential to step into the internal and the hidden. Whoever claims to have knowledge of the secret part of the Qur'an while lacking a proper understanding of the external and the obvious, is like he who claims manhood at the threshold of his house (to which he has just crawled) although he has not yet stepped out of the door."

In brief, the Qur'an has two levels of meaning: the external and the internal. It should be obvious, therefore, how difficult it can be for a person to get to the second level, while his first level of understanding is suspect due to his ignorance of the language which leads him to take the words of men for the words of God.
These are some of the reasons why neither a translation nor a commentary can be substituted for the original.
It should not be surprising therefore to note that according to Imam Shafe`i, learning of the Arabic language is obligatory on every Muslim. Imam Abu Yousuf and Zufar, both students of Imam Abu Hanifah, went a step further. They stated that it is makruh (undesirable) for two Muslims who can manage some Arabic, to speak with each other in another language. Ibn Taymiyyah is also of the opinion that learning Arabic is a religious requirement since what is necessary to realize an obligation (wajib) is itself obligatory (wajib).

Pre‑conceived Ideas
In contrast, neglect of the language and study and reliance upon a single commentary of the al-tafsir bi 'l‑ra'yi type, can lead a student of the Qur'an to hold questionable opinions despite long study and painful application. Many of those who could become connoisseurs ended up dilettantes. Imam Ghazali writes about this class of people:

"The sufis have said that knowledge (`ilm) is a veil (between man and God), and by this knowledge they have meant those beliefs (`aqa'id) which most people have been firmly holding either by dogmatically following an authority or by mere reliance on casuistic sentences written by zealots of schools of thought and delivered to them. As for the real knowledge which is the uncovering of the actual condition of the thing known and which is a vision by the light of spiritual insight, how can it be a veil, seeing that it is the ultimate object of desire?
Pure dogmatic following of an authority is sometimes false (in itself) and is, therefore, an obstacle to the understanding of the meaning (of the Qur'an). An example of this is a man who has a (purely dogmatic) belief in Allah's istawa' on the Throne as His being settled on it physically. Then in the case of (the divine name) ‘the Holy One' (al-Quddus), for example, there comes to his mind the meaning that He is pure from all that is ascribable to His creation: but that purely dogmatic belief of his does not make it possible for this meaning to be firmly implanted in his mind. Had it become strengthened in his mind it would have led to a second meaning and a third, which could be inter-connected. But he hastens to drive this meaning away from his mind, because it contradicts his false belief which is held purely dogmatically.
Sometimes purely dogmatic following of an authority is true (in itself), but it too becomes an obstacle to understanding (the meaning of the Qur'an) and to unveiling of them. The truth in which man is obliged to believe has stages and grades, and it has an external beginning and an internal end. Concentration of man's nature on the external aspect prevents him from reading the internal end" (source cited above, p.70, 71).

Finally, every commentator is influenced by the ideas of his time that seem to be so powerful, and therefore of great consequence, which could be so during a particular epoch, but prove not to be so with the passage of time. Moved by those ideas or forces, a commentator might try to give the verses of the Qur'an a new meaning, sometimes at the expense of certain basic and universal truths. This can seriously affect the way in which his readers understand the Qur'an.
The conclusion therefore is that anyone who has not done a course of study in the tafsir of the approved type, but, instead, applies himself to the other type ‑ the tafsir bi 'l‑ra'yi ‑ runs the great risk of ending up with ideas that might not be true, half true or altogether wrong.
Therefore, every serious student of the Qur'an must learn enough Arabic to be able to read the Qur'an himself, directly, and without dependence on a translation to an extraordinary degree. It is only after he has spent sufficient time with the Qur'an (and, in addition, the Sunnah), that he can turn his attention to the translations and commentaries as further aids. It is only those for whom it is beyond their capacity to learn the language that might resort to dependence on translations and commentaries alone, although, to remain in consultation with the scholars is a necessary requirement for not getting misled on concepts.

Al-Tafsir bi 'l Ma'thur
The safest way to derive the right meaning of any part of the Qur'an is to seek its explanation within the Qur'an itself. What is stated in brief at one place is detailed at another, and what is ambiguous at one point is supplemented with elaborations elsewhere. Also, the Qur'an deals with a subject in a variety of ways, at different points, and with emphasis on different aspects in different contexts. The complete meaning can only be obtained by collecting together, either on paper or in the mind, all relevant verses, seeking connections that become apparent with contemplation. The Qur'an then should be understood in the first instance with the Qur'an itself.

The Hadith
Next, one should turn to the hadith. The ahadith are in reality a commentary on the Qur'an. Allah (swt) not only revealed the Word to the Prophet but also its meaning. A verse (4:105) says, "Surely We have sent down a Book to you (O Muhammad) with Truth so that you may judge between the people by what Allah shows you (as its true meaning)."
But it is not only the meaning as expressed in the words of the Prophet (saws) that has to be learnt. It is also the meaning as expressed in his actions that should be applied to one’s own life, to gain an understanding of the Qur'an. The Prophet lived according to the Message he received, not deviating from it in the least. In other words his life was the Qur'an interpreted: "Have you not read the Qur'an?!" was the answer given by `A'isha (ra) when asked about the Prophet's conduct in everyday life.
An example will illustrate how well the Prophet understood and lived by the Qur'an.
The Qur'an uses the term rih (in the sense of ‘winds') in two ways. In some places in the singular form as rih, and in others in the plural form as riyah. In all, it has used these terms on 29 occasions. Now a careful study reveals that when the occasion is the announcement of a punishment or chastisement from Allah, the word is used in its singular form (rih). In contrast, when the context is announcement of a glad tiding, it is the plural form that is chosen (riyah). [The odd deviation from the rule can be explained].
Now, keep the Qur'anic rule in mind and consider the prayer‑words of the Prophet, who, with every stormy weather supplicated in the words:

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا رِيَاحًا وَلا تَجْعَلْهَا رِيحًا

"O Lord! Make it winds (riyah) for us and not wind (rih)."
Another example can be cited. The Qur'an said (9: 103): "Accept (O Muhammad) of their wealth a free-will offering, to purify them and to cleanse them." This injunction came after the declaration that the free-will offering of the hypocrites was not acceptable; and the reference is to the zakah on wealth. The free-will offering, of course, is collected by the State and is distributed following another injunction (9: 60) that cites eight categories of people as the deserving recipients.
However, following the clue that zakah (and sadaqat by implication) purify and cleanse the people ("to purify them and cleanse them"), and, reasoning that the purifying agent cannot itself be clean after its purifying operation (another example is ablution water dropping down a man), the Prophet declared his kinsfolk as undeserving of a share in the zakah (and sadaqat) funds. He told them that the zakah funds were a dirt of the hand and hence unsuitable for them.
The above stray examples demonstrate not only how well the Prophet understood the Qur'an and the extent to which he applied it to himself, but also, how important it is for a reader to gain mastery over the two: the Qur'an and the Sunnah texts, to understand either.

The Companions and their Followers
Any clarification required after the first two sources have been exhausted, should be sought in the opinions of the Prophet's Companions; especially those who were close to him, received his special attention, and specialized in the Qur'an during his life‑time: such as the four khulafa', Ibn `Abbas, Ibn Mas`ud, `Abdullah ibn `Umar, Ubayy b. Ka`ab and others, or those of the Followers who became the pupils of these Companions, such as: Mujahid, `Ikrimah, Sa`id ibn Jubayr, Masruq, `Ata' ibn Rabah, Hassan al Busri, Sa`id ibn al Musayyib, Qatadah, Dahhak, Abu al `Aliyyah and others.
The differences in their opinions, however, should not disturb a student. For, as Ibn Taymiyyah has pointed out in his Muqaddimah fi Usul al Tafsir, in most cases they express the same meaning in different words. The word "hafadah" for instance, has been explained as "daughters" by Ibn Mas`ud and Sa`id b. Jubayr; as "grandsons" by Ibn `Abbas; as "in‑laws" by Ibn Mas`ud; while `Ikrimah, Mujahid, and Hasan al‑Basri say it stands for "servants." They are all of course expressing one or the other aspect of the meaning of the word. For "hafadah" is plural of "hafid" and in its singular form it means "he who is made to serve." At the time the verse was revealed, the word was used in all those senses in which it was adopted by different authorities.
Tafsir bi 'l ma'thur derives its basis from ‑ apart from others ‑ a hadith which says that when the Prophet was deputing Mu`adh ibn Jabal to Yemen he asked him how he was going to judge between the people. "With the Book of Allah," replied Mu`adh. "But what if you do not find (a lead) therein?" the Prophet asked. "With the Sunnah of Allah's Messenger," he replied. "But if you do not find (a lead) therein also?" he asked him. "Then," Mu`adh replied, "I will work out my own opinion." The Prophet expressed his approval (Muqaddimah, Ibn Taymiyyah).
A word of caution however, about this kind of tafsir should be in place. What is recommended is the methodology as enumerated above, and not the entire content of the books of tafasir that have followed this methodology. In some of these works massive amount of Jewish material and comments of the early exegetes have been included without verifications of their authenticity. If not read critically, these can have their own pitfalls. Naivety, for instance, can be perceived in those who rely on these alone and have failed to step into the modern age in intellectual terms.

Al-Tafsir bi al Ra'yi (Personal Opinions)
As stated above, sometimes a commentator uses his intelligence, knowledge, intuition or inspiration to bring out a point in language, history, law, etc. Some of such comments are acceptable, while others are not. Take for example verse (2: 102): "Sulayman blasphemed not, but the Satans blasphemed." A question arises. We know that a prophet does not blaspheme. Why then did the Qur'an have to say that Sulayman (asws) did not blaspheme? For an explanation we have to look into the Bible which alleges that Solomon became an idolater during the last days of his life (Majid). Though not based on an athar, it is a valid explanation and also corroborates with what details classical commentators (such as Ibn Kathir) have recorded as coming from Suddi and Sa`id b. Jubayr.
To take another example, the Qur'an says (2: 273): "(Alms are) for the poor who are restrained in the way of Allah, who can not journey in the land (for trade). The ignorant supposes them rich because of their restraint. You will know them by their mark. They do not beg of people with importunity. And whatsoever of good things that you spend, surely, Allah will know it."
Commenting on the verse, Thanwi says that the words, ‘(Alms are) for the poor who are restrained in the way of Allah,' are telling us that those who are working in the way of Allah deserve to receive first priority in aid. Further, the clause ‘who cannot journey in the land' signifies that it is desirable for those engaged in the path of Allah that they may suspend their efforts at livelihood, if need be, although there is no contradiction between the two (i.e. engagement in the path of Allah, and search for livelihood). Finally, the words ‘the ignorant supposes them rich,' implies that it is undesirable to put on appearances that will distinguish a man from the common people.
This is the kind of Tafsir bi 'l ra'yi that is acceptable since such statements can be corroborated in other ways also. What can be proved as valid either directly through deductions from the Qur'an, Sunnah, opinions of the Companions, their immediate Followers, or that which, in the least, does not contradict any of the above, in word or spirit, is valid and acceptable.
The permission for this kind of interpretation is based on the supplication (du`a) which the Prophet made for Ibn `Abbas. He said:

اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيلَ

"O Allah, grant him knowledge of the Qur'an and teach him the interpretation."
Contrary to this is the unprincipled interpretation that has its basis neither in the sources cited above, nor does it agree with the spirit of Islam as understood by the scholars at large.
To explain, any opinion with reference to a Qur’anic text that contradicts with that of the Salaf, in matters involving the Shari`ah, values, morals or spiritual affairs, is Tafsir bi al-Ra’yi, and stands rejected outright. It is about such an interpretation that the Prophet remarked: "Whoever speaks about the Qur'an without knowledge, may seek his abode in the Fire."
The Companions and their Followers were quite careful about offering an interpretation that did not have a Qur'anic verse or hadith in its support. Abu Bakr (ra) used to say: "Which heaven will shelter me, and which earth will support me if I said about Allah's Book, that which I have no knowledge of." Abu Yezid said: "We used to ask Sa`id ibn al‑Musayyib about the ‘lawful' and the ‘unlawful' and would find him the most knowledgeable of men. But when we asked him about a verse of the Qur'an as to how it was to be understood, he would be quiet, turning a deaf ear to us."

Al-Tafsir 'l‑Ishari (Allegorical Interpretation)
By nature, man is awed by the mysterious. It is the inexplicable, the symbolical, and the mysterious that engage his attention. The obvious and the clear‑cut escape him. To seek a solution to a riddle or the meaning of an allegory is a task he undertakes with enthusiasm. The allegorical verses of the Qur'an have provided grist to the minds of its scholars and there have been several interpretations proffered to explain them. Some of these are not readily acceptable and raise controversies. The best course of action about them when they are authentically quoted, by authoritative people, but which seemingly contradicts ideas of the Salaf, is to make no judgment about their acceptance or rejection.
In this work the use of Tafsir 'l Ishari has been restricted. It is inadvisable to read them without the guidance of a specialist. Thanwi’s Masa'il al‑Suluk as footnotes to his Urdu Bayan al‑Qur'an, is of this class. So are Alusi’s notes under this heading.
Nevertheless, it should also be borne in mind that every passage whose meaning is not obvious is not necessarily of the allegorical type, nor is the Qur'an entirely without them. There are some portions of the Qur'an whose true meaning the human mind might never be able to unravel. Ibn `Abbas has said: "There are four kinds of meanings: a) that which is apparent to the Arabs because it is in their language, b) that whose meaning no one can deny on the pretext of ignorance, c) the meaning that is the share of the scholars alone, and, d) the meaning that no one knows save Allah and His Messenger."
Further, one may note that there are Qur’anic texts whose meanings would be understood at the time of death, or subsequent to it.

Following the Qur'anic method, we might end with what we started with. Application is part of the study. One will not travel much on the road if he failed to live by the instructions and inspirations that he received with the study. The Qur'an is the Word of Allah. It has been sent to guide the people. But it guides only those who are willing to be guided. As Rumi has said, the Qur’an is a closed book except for the true ardent seeker; to which we might add, ‘those who would care to apply.’
A further condition is to avoid sins of all kinds. The following is reported to have been said by Imam Shafe`i:

شكوت إلى وكيع سوء حفظى * فأرشدنى إلى ترك المعاصى
وأخـبرنى بـأن العـلم نور * ونور الله لايهدى لعاصى

I complained to Waki` of my forgetfulness
He guided me to give up sins
And taught me that knowledge is Light
And Allah’s Light is not shown to the sinner

The student of the Qur'an will have to develop his mind in such a way as to be skeptical of everything that the senses report, doubt every opinion that is formed by the intellect, and question every information that comes from non‑revealed sources. In the next step, he will have to test all of them against the Qur'an and reject any that contradicts it in word or spirit. Ibn Mas`ud (ra) said: "During the life-time of the Prophet, we used to take ten verses of the Qur'an for study and would not move on to the next ten until we had lived by those ten." It is reported of `Umar ibn al‑Khattab (ra) that he finished surah al‑Baqarah in seven years. According to a report he was so happy at its completion that he slaughtered a camel and invited his friends to a feast.
We can conclude with Zarkashi's remarks. He writes in Al‑Burhan fi `Ulum al‑Qur'an:

"In the final analysis, the derivation of the meaning of the Qur'an is largely dependent on a man's own thoughts and reflections. Let it be known, therefore, that the true meaning of the revelation and the secrets of the veiled knowledge will never be the share of a man whose heart is filled with innovations, or who insists on a sin, or in whose heart resides pride or base desires or love of the world, or that he be of an uncertain faith, or poor of discernment, or dependent on the opinions of a mufassir who has knowledge only of the externals (`ilm al-zahir), or gives precedence to his own thoughts and ideas (during the process of thinking). All these are veils and obstacles, some of which are of greater impedance than others.
"(In contrast), if the man pays full attention to the words of His Lord, is receptive to the meaning that the Attributes of the One addressing him unfold themselves, is always aware of His powers, abandons his own self-established conclusions based on reason and intellect, renounces his own powers and abilities, is ever mindful of the greatness of the Speaker, beseeching Him the grant of the meaning: and all this from a personal state of integrity, a good-natured heart, with the power of knowledge, of a calm disposition to gather the meaning, and to wait for the missed meaning seeking (Divine) help through Prayers and Supplications, (the supplications themselves) presented with the weakness (of the human against Powers of the Divine), and observing patience while waiting for the mind to be opened by Him who is the Opener, the Knowing; and he who strengthens these qualities with a recitation during which his mind is fully attentive to the verbal meaning and bears witness to the Attributes of the One addressing him by anxiously waiting for the promises (of the opening of the heart coming true), and fearing the calamities (that may befall him for his failings), and who warns forcefully .. such is the one who has a good voice for the Qur'an and it is about him that Allah Most High has said (2:121): ‘Those to whom we have given the Book, read it in the manner it should be read. It is these who believe in it'" (p. 180-81, vol.2).

The Methodology in this Work
It has been this writer's endeavor to present in this work, principally, the meaning of the Qur'an as understood by the classical scholars. That is, in the light of the Qur'an itself, traditions of the Prophet and statements of the Companions and their followers. To achieve this, the author first consulted Ibn Jarir Tabari. Since Ibn Jarir was a Muhaddith himself, he did not cite sources to the hadith, or to statements of the Companions that he quoted. Citing the sources was done by Ibn Kathir. Therefore, Ibn Kathir was next consulted. However, Ibn Kathir did not cite sources to the statements of the Salaf. This was done, to some degree, by Shawkani. So, he was consulted next. Although Ibn Kathir cited hadith sources, he did not state the authenticity-status of ahadith. In such cases, this author tried to search the opinion of Hadith Doctors, to add a note about their reliability. Further, if there were differences in opinions over the meaning of a certain verse, Ibn Kathir preferred to adopt the opinion of Ibn Jarir, which, this author indicated. Thus, a meaning emerged as of the Salaf. The translation of the verses reflects this meaning. The author suppressed his own opinion, for whose credibility he lacks the qualification, unless it was a scientific issue, historical, geographical or the like.
Thereunto, the author added the opinions of various other commentators, taking care of course, that such opinions did not clash with the opinions of the Salaf, for in matters of Law, morals (Akhlaq), and spiritual matters, the Salaf were the true authority. The way the first three generations understood the Qur’an, was never understood by any after them. It is they who changed the world, the way no generation could. If a headstrong person thinks that someone’s understanding of the Qur’an and Sunnah, was, or is, as good as that of the Salaf, and as accurate, he might need a course on how `ilm is defined in Islam. Ibn Sirin, a prominent Tabe`i said, “Knowledge is gone. What’s left of it is bits and pieces, scattered among the scholars.” Hasan al-Basri, his contemporary, was told by someone that the “Fuqaha’ say so and so.” He corrected him, “Have you ever seen a Faqih?”

An additional note about the commentaries made by the Companions and their followers might be in order. The Prophet has said: "The best of epochs is my epoch, then that of the Followers, and then that of the Followers." He was referring to the epoch followed by his own, and that of the Companions and the Tabe`iyyun. There were many Companions of the Prophet who received his special attention and specialized in the Qur'an during his life‑time itself. In turn they tutored many among the Tabe`iyyun. The term Salaf applies mainly to these: i.e., the Companions and the two succeeding generations, plus the third (because of some reports). Their opinion is the approved opinion. If they agree over the meaning of a particular word, or a verse, and the issue is purely of a religious nature as indicated above, then any other opinion that contradicts it and cannot be reconciled with it, stands rejected. Of course, there is no such restriction when the subject concerned is of historical, geographical or scientific nature, for, these disciplines were developed after them. Some contemporary commentaries tend to give new meanings to some Qur’anic terms. If they clash with those of the Salaf, they must be ignored; for, the Salaf knew the ‘Arabic of the Qur’an,’ and not the Arabic of those who refer to dictionaries and literary works developed after them to argue their case. `Umar used to say, “If you are in doubt, refer to the Jahiliyy poetry. The Qur’an was revealed in that language.”

The opinions of the Salaf might sometimes surprise the reader. He might consider them as entirely out of context. But, it is the failure to understand the context that creates the confusion. "Jump the line" is a sentence in English that conveys different meanings to different people in different situations. To a sportsman it has one meaning. When spoken by a motorist complaining of the erratic behavior of another motorist it has another meaning. In contrast, to an electrician working on the power grid, the sentence carries a different sense altogether. What we have to realize about the Companions is that they did not merely understand the context; they were themselves the context, and often spoke from the transcendental level; not from the stand point of the misleading cliché of modern times: ‘reason and logic.’

If the reader wishes to make the most of this work, he or she should allocate an area in his mind wherein he stores information obtained from the Salaf, in this work. This is the principal, the most reliable meaning, and the basis on which he can build on further. He might highlight such passages for ease of later reference.

Nonetheless, in order to keep alive interest and help increase knowledge, I have also included material that has so far been the prerogative of the Arabic‑speaking readers: material without which the Qur'anic spectrum of legitimate meaning loses some of its color.
To the above I have added some useful material from commentaries in Urdu and English. But of course, while selecting material from contemporary works, a critical eye has been kept open for errors of the conceptual type and, to the extent possible, those that contradict with a meaning accepted by the Jumhur al‑Ummah (the great majority). Jumhur al‑Ummah is of course not the same thing as the Ijma` al‑Ummah (the consensus of opinion ‑ the research of which is a difficult task, well beyond the scope of this work). The opinions of the Jumhur give us some idea of how the Qur'an has been understood through the ages. When Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Thanwi or others consider a point from the previous exegetes as worth quoting, then surely that adds up to the weight of the comment.
I have not reproduced from, or cited reference to, the contemporary commentators if they have discussed those matters that the ancients have already done. In most cases the contemporary scholars have changed the form, picking out from the ancients what would suit them most. I have quoted them only if they have a new idea or a fresh point, with the condition, once again, that such ideas do not, in my limited knowledge, contradict a proven opinion held by the Salaf or Jumhu al-Ummah. Anecdotes, poetry, fiqh points, and comparative study material have been added to break the monotony.

A word about quotations from the Sufiya' would be in order. We all know that an unclean person in dirty clothes would hardly improve himself by applying perfume. He first needs to cleanse himself. How can it be any different in matters pertaining to the soul? A heart filled with pride or preferential love of this world will hardly improve through wisdom-words or supererogatory exercises. Something needs to be done first to remove the impurities. Sufism is all about this removal of impurities. This centrist position however, lies between two extremes. It should not be imagined that by quoting the Sufiya' we are approving the extreme positions, practices, or the so‑called "ways of the Gnostic" that have no basis in the Shari`ah.

Hadith Authenticity
The most difficult task has been to present only those ahadith or reports from the Companions or others that are authentic, since no noteworthy work has been done by the hadith experts on Qur'anic commentaries. Mahmud Shakir's attempt at Tabari has remained incomplete. Hussain b. Ibrahim and Sayyid Ibrahim have done some useful, although not exhaustive work on Ibn Kathir and Shawkani. Occasionally, I have either traced the ahadith to their sources, and when not in the Sahih works, have depended on works on the topic by Hadith experts. I have tried not to quote anything less than Hasan in status. If I have quoted some weak reports, it is only those that are not very weak or are strengthened by other, although weak, ahadith, or the personal opinions of the Companion or others.

Ideological Interpretations
Some readers might be surprised to note the lack of a single string of thought in this work, as it is also lacking in classical commentaries: one strand, so to say, that weaves into itself the "philosophy of the whole of the Qur'an." This is a naive idea. To speak of the Qur'an in such terms is to presume a certain meaning, a certain philosophy, a certain ideology, and reduce the Word of Allah to human definitions.
It is common knowledge that this terrestrial existence is too complex to be interpreted in terms of a single philosophy. Life cannot be reduced to equations. Even the inorganic does not render itself to such simplification. At this very moment, scientists at a billion dollar apiece Accelerators (commonly known as atom smashers) are at their wit’s end trying to determine if the building blocks of an atom (which were once thought to be electrons, protons, neutrons and a few other elementary particles) are quarks, those 300 subatomic particles visible for a fraction of a second when the nucleus is smashed with highly accelerated protons, or there is more to it. No one can say for sure if there will be an end to it!! The wave and particle function of the sub-atomic particles is another intriguing issue. If solid matter is proving so complex, what should one think of the uncreated ‘Word’ of Allah?
Moreover, such a demand betrays the failure to understand the very basics of life in terms of human fears, hopes, aspirations, creativity and interactions. At every moment of his existence a man has several options before him, only one of which is the optimum best for him. What can guide him to the right choice but a criterion backed by a vast set of concepts, data and ideas that have their own quality to fuse themselves, in a flash of a second, into one homogenized whole and present a single, synchronized, workable idea or a suggestion ‑ that the man may accept or reject!?
Again, the Qur'an is, from one angle, a long essay in the education of concepts: the divisions are for human convenience. No detail can be missed in any area but at the loss of a concept; sometimes it might be the most valuable concept acting as the central link to a maze of ideas, and, a powerful magnet to iron flakes flying by in every direction. Hence the presentation in the style I have adopted. The reader will have to pick up bits and pieces, and put them together into a homogenous meaningful whole that is pertinent to his situation, and would be useful perhaps to him alone.

Rarely has a work of such dimensions and a task so demanding been attempted by a man as poorly qualified as this author. Yet, no efforts were spared to locate material necessary to produce the "aid for understanding the Qur'an" that he has aimed at producing. Although, it must be admitted, that efforts are no substitute for abilities.
The author’s dependence, therefore, on those who are pioneers in similar efforts should be quite evident. In the rendering of the Qur'anic text into English for instance, A.J. Arberry's influence can be easily detected. Yusuf `Ali, Asad and Pickthall have been in constant reference. N.J. Dawood and several others have also been consulted. To make it easier for the beginners and non‑Muslims (and following the recommendation of the fuqaha'), words and phrases have been added in parenthesis while rendering the text into English. Such interpolations are, nonetheless, based on an accepted interpretation.
Without trying to be humble, it can be said with a fair amount of accuracy that for all that is good and useful in this work, the credit is due to someone else, while the shortcomings are the contributions of this author who seeks Allah's forgiveness, and the reader's help in overcoming them.

Syed Iqbal Zaheer
March 2015


References, abbreviations, and technical terms

Clue to References
Ahmad: Musnad by Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal (d. 241 A.H.).
Albani: Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Sahiha, Muhammad Nasiruddin Albani, (d. 1420 A.H.).
Albani: Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Da`eefah wa al-Mawdu`ah, Muhammad Nasirudding Albani, , Al-Maktab al-Islami.
Alusi/Ruh: Ruh al Ma`ani Fi Tafsir Qur’an al `Azim Wa al Sab` al Mathani by Shihab al Din Sayyid Mahmood Alusi (d.1291 A.H.)
`Aqidah: `Aqidah Tahawiyyah, commentary Ibn Abi al-`Izz, (tr. By Syed Iqbal Zaheer, as Funamentals of Islamic Creed), World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Dammam, Saudi Arabia
Arba`ahal, Kitab al-Fiqh `ala Madhahib al-Arba`ah by Abdul Rahman al-Jaziri
Asad: The Message of the Qur’an by Muhammad Asad (d. 1412 A.H.)
`Awn al-Ma`bud: Sharh Sunan Abi Da’ud, Muhammad Shams al-Haq al-`Azimabadi.
`Ayni, `Umdatu al-Qari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, Badruddin `Ayni, Ihya al-Turath al-Islami, Beirut.
Bada’i`: Bada’i` al-Tafsir, Al-Jami` al-Tafsir al-Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, collected by Yusri Sayyid Muhammad, Dar Ibn Jawzi, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 1993
E.I.: Encyclopedia of Islam, E.J. Brill, Leiden 1991
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Haythami, , Majma`u al-Zawa’id wa Manba` al-Fawa’id, Nuruddin `Ali b. abi Bakr, Mu’assasatu al-Ma`arif, Beyrut.
Hussain: Tafsir ibn Kathir, Hussain b. Ibrahim Zahran, ed.
Ibn Is-haq: Sirah Rasulullah, by Muhammad ibn Ishaq (d. 151 A.H.).
Ibn Jarir/Tabari: Jami` al Bayan Fi Tafsir al Qur’an by Ibn Jarir al-Tabari (d.310 A.H.)
Ibn Kathir: Tafsir al Qur’an al `Azim by `Imad al Din Abul Fida Isma`il ibn `Amr ibn Kathir (d.774 A.H.)
Ibn Majah, Sunan, Muhammad b. Yazid al-Qazwini, Maktabah al-`Ilmiyyah, Beirut.
Ibn Qayyim: Al-Tafsir Al-Qayyim, by Shamsuddin Muhammad b. Abi Bakr Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (d.751 A.H.) collected by Muhammad Uways Al-Nadwi.
Jami` Saghir: Fayd al-Qadir Sharh Jami` Saghir (of Jalaluddin Suyuti) by Muhammad `Abdul Ra’uf al-Munawi.
Kabir al: Al-Tafsir Al-Kabir, tafsir notes of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (d.728 A.H) collected by Dr. `Abdul Rahman `Umayrah.
Kanz: Kanz al-`Ummal,by Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi.
Lane: An Arabic-English Lexicon, by Edward Willian Lane, Librarie Du Luban, 1968
Lisan: Lisan al-`Arab, Ibn Manzur, (d. 711 A.H.).
Lughat: Lughat al-Qur’an (Urdu) by Mawlana Abdul Rashid No`mani & Mawlana Sayyid Abdud-Da’im Al-Jalali.
Ma`arif /Shafi`: Ma`arif al Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi` Deobandi (d. 1396 A.H.).
Majid: Holy Qur’an Translation and Commentary (English) by `Abdul Majid Daryabadi (1397).
Majidi: Holy Qur’an Translation and Commentary by `Abdul Majid Daryabadi (Urdu).
Manar, Tafsir al-Manar, Rashid Rada Misri, Dar al-Ma`rifa, Beirut.
Mawdudi/Tafhim: Tafhim al-Qur’an by Sayyid Abul A`la Mawdudi (d.1979 C.E.)
Mughni al, Ibn Qudamah, al-Maqdisi, Ri’asat al-Idaratu al-Buuth al-`Ilmiyyah, Saudi Arabia.
Mulhim: Fath al-Mulhim, Shabbir Ahmad `Uthmani, and, Takmilatu Fath al-Mulhim, Taqiuddin `Uthmani, Dar al-Ulum, Karachi.
Muwatta’: Muwatta’ by Imam Malik ibn Anas (d. 179 A.H.).
Nasa’i, Ahmad b. Shu`ayb, Sunan al-Nasa’i, Dar al-Rayyan li al-Turath, Cairo.
Nawawi: Sharh Sahih Muslim by Imam Sharfuddin al-Nawawi (d. 261 A.H.)
Penrice: A Dictionary and Glossary of the Qur’an, John Penrice, Gaurav Publishing House, 187
Qurtubi: Al-Jam`i Li ‘l Ahkam al Qur’an by Abu `Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ahmad al Ansari al Qurtubi (d.671 A.H.)
Raghib: Mu`jam Mufradat al-Qur’an by al-Raghib al-Asfahani (d. 503 A.H.)
Rawa‘e`: Rawa‘e` al-Bayan Tafsir Ayat al-Ahkam by Muhammad `Ali Sabuni.
Razi: Tafsir al Fakhr al Razi by Muhammad al-Razi Fakhr al Din ibn Dia al Din `Umar (d.604 A.H.)
Sabuni: Safwatu al Tafasir by Muhammad `Ali Sabuni.
Sahih ibn Hibban bi-Tarteeb Ibn Balban, `Ala’uddin `Ali b. Balban, , Mu’assasah al-Risalah, Beirut.
Shabbir/`Uthmani: Al-Qur’an al-Karim, Commentary by Shabbir Ahmed `Uthmani (d. 1370 A.H.).
Shanqiti: Adwa‘ al-Bayan, Fi Idahi Al-Qur’an bi ‘l-Qur’an by Muhammad Al-Amin b.Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Al-Jakani Al-Shanqiti.
Se`di: Taysir al-Karim al-Rahman, fir Tafsir al-Mannan, `Abdul Rahman b. Nasir Se`id.
Shawkani: Al-Fut-h al-Qadir by Muhammad ibn `Ali Shawkani (d.1255 A.H.)
S. Ibrahim: Ed. Al-Fath al-Qadir, by Shawkani
Sihah: Taj al-Lugha wa Sihah al-`Arabiyyah, Isma`il b. Nasr Hammad al-Jawhari, 393 A.H.
Sirah: Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah fi Daw Masadir al-Athliyyah, Dr. Mahdi Rizqallah, Saudi Arabia 1992.
Sayyid Qutb/Qutb/Zilal: Fi Zilal al Qur’an by Sayyid Qutb (d.1386 A.H.).
Thanwi/Bayan: Bayan al Qur’an by Ashraf `Ali Thanwi (d.1361 A.H.)
Tuhfah: Tuhfah al-Ahwazi bi Sharh Jami` al-Tirmidhi by Muhammad ibn `Abdul Rahman Mubarakpuri.
Yusuf Ali: The Glorious Qur’an, Meaning and Translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (d. 1953 A.H.).
Zafar Ahmad `Uthmani, I`la al-Sunan, Idaratu al-Islam wa `Ulum al-Islamiyyah, Karachi, Pakistan.
Zamakhshari/Kashshaf: Haqa’iq al- Tanzil Wa `Uyun al-Aqawil Fi Wujuh at-Ta‘wil by Abu al-Qasim Jarallah Mahmood b.`Umar al-Zamakhshari (d.538 A.H.).
Zarkashi: Al-Burhan Fi `Ulum al-Qur’an by Badruddin Muhammad bin `Abdullah al-Zarkashi (d. 794 A.H.), Dar al-Ma`rifa, Beirut.
Note: The list above is not a complete bibliography, but rather books sort of more often referred.


Abbreviations as in
Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English Commentary

Ac. = Acts of the Apostles.
Am. = Amos.
1. Ch. = The First Book of the Chronicles.
2. Ch. = The Second Book of the Chronicles.
1. Cor. = Paul’s First Epistle of the Apostles.
1. Ch. = The First Book of the Chronicles.
2. Ch. = The Second Book of the Chronicles.
1. Cor. = Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.
2. Cor. = Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians.
Dn. = The Book of Daniel.
Dt. = Deuteronomy: The Fifth Book of Moses.
Ex. = Exodus: The Second Book of Moses.
Ez. = Ezra.
Ezek. = The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.
Ga. = Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.
Ge. = Genesis: The First Book of Moses.
He. = Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews.
Ho. = Hosea.
Is. = Isiah.
Ja. = The General Epistle of James.
Jn. = Gospel according to St. John.
Jo. = Joel.
Job. = The Book of Job.
Jon. = The Book of Jonah.
Josh. = The Book of Joshua.
Judg. = The Book of Judges.
Je. = The Book of Jeremiah.
1. Ki. = The First Book of the Kings.
2. Ki. = The Second Book of the Kings.
La. The Lamentations of Jeremiah.
Lk. = The Gospel according to St. Luke.
Le. = Leviticus: The Third Book of Moses.
Mi. = Micah.
Mk. = Gospel according to St. Mark.
Mt. = Gospel according to St. Matthew.
Na. = Nahum.
Ne. = The Book of Nehemiah.
Nu. = Numbers: The Fourth Book of Moses.
1. Pe. = The First Epistle General of Peter.
2. Pe. = The Second Epistle General of Peter.
Ph. = Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians.
Pr. = The Proverbs.
Ps. = The Book of Psalms.
Re. = The Revelation of St. John.
Ro. = Paul’s Epistle to the Romans
1. Sa. = The First Book of Samuel.
2. Sa. = The Second Book of Samuel.
So. = The Song of Solomon.
1. Thes. = Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians.
2. Thes. = Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians.
1. Ti. = Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy.
2. Ti. = Paul’s Second Epistle to Timothy.
Tt. = Paul’s Epistle to Titus.
Ze. = Zechariah.

“Ant.” = Josephus’ ‘Antiquities of the Jews.’ (Routledge London).
Aq. = Shah Abdul Qadir Dehlavi (D. 1241 A.H./1826 C.E.). Urdu translator and commentator of the Holy Qur’an.
ASB. = Asad’s English Translation of Sahih al-Bukhari.
AV. = Authorized Version of the Bible.
AYA. = `Abdullah Yusuf `Ali. English translator and commentator of the Holy Qur’an.
Bdh. = Nasir-ud-Din `Abdullah Baidhavi (D. 685 A.H./1282 C.E.). Commentator of the Holy Qur’an.
BK. = ‘Book of Knowledge,’ 4 Vols. (Educational Book Co., London)
CD. = Pallen and Wynne’s ‘New Catholic Dictionary.’ (New York).
CE. = McDannell’s ‘Concise Encyclopedia,’ 8 Vols. (New York).
C.E. = Christian Era.
DB. = Hastings’ ‘Dictionary of the Bible,’ 5 Vols. (Clarke, London).
DCA. = Smith and Cheetham’s ‘Dictionary of Christian Antiquities,’ 2 Vols. (Murray, London).
DV. = Douay Version of the Bible.
EBi. = Cheyne and Black’s ‘Encyclopedia Biblica,’ 4 Vols. (Black, London).
EBr. = ‘Encyclopedia Britannica,’ 29 Vols. 11th Edition. (London).
Encyclopedia Britannica,’ 24 Vols. 14th Edition. (London and New York). Where no edition is specified, the reference is to 14th edition.
EI. = Houtsma and Wensink’s ‘Encyclopedia of Islam,’ 5 Vols. (Luzac, London).
EMK. = Hammerton’s ‘Encyclopedia of Modern Knowledge,’ 5 Vols. (Waverly, New York).
ERE. = Hastings’ ‘Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics,’ 13 Vols. (Clarke, London).
ESS. = Seligman’s ‘Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences,’ 15 Vols. (Macmillan, London).
FWN = Frazer’s ‘Worship of Nature,’ 2 Vols. (Macmillan, London).
GB. = Ragg’s ‘The Gospel of Barnabas.’ (Oxford).
GRE. = Gibbon’s ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,’ 7 Vols. (Methuen, London).
HHW. = ‘Historians’ History of the World,’ 25 Vols. (The Times, London).
HJ. = The Hibbert Journal. (Constable, London).
IA. = Hadhrat `Abdullah Ibn-i-`Abbas. (D. 68 A.H./688 C.E.) (A companion and cousin of the Holy Prophet).
IQ. = Ibn-i-Qutaiba. (D. 276 A.H./890 C.E.) Author of ‘Arabic Glossary of the Holy Qur’an.
JE. = ‘The Jewish Encyclopedia,’ 12 Vols. (Funk and Wagnalls, New York).
LL. = Lane’s ‘Arabic-English Lexicon,’ 8 Vols. (Williams and Norgate, London).
LSK. = Lane and Lane-Poole’s ‘Selections from the Kuran.” (Trubner, London).
M.A. = Maulana Mohammad `Ali: (D. 1349 A.H./1931 C.E.) Indian Muslim leader. (Not to be confused with his namesake of Lahore and a translator of the Qur’an). The references are to his unpublished work, ‘Islam: The Kingdom of God’ (since published as ‘My Life – A Fragment’ by Sh. M. Ashraf, Lahore).
NSD. = ‘New Standard Dictionary of the English Language,’ 4 Vols. (Funk and Wagnalls, New York).
NT. = The New Testament.
OT. = The Old Testament.
PC. = Tyler’s ‘Primitive Culture,’ 2 Vols. (Murray, London).
RV. = Revised Version of the Bible.
RZ. = Imam Fakhruddin Razi. (D. 659 A.H./1209 C.E.). Well-know commentator of the Holy Qur’an.
SOED. = ‘Shorter Oxford English Dictionary,’ 2 Vols. (Oxfor).
SPD. = Sale’s ‘Preliminary Discourse to the Translation of the Kuran,’ prefixed as Introduction to Wherry’s ‘Commentary on the Kuran,’ 4 Vols. (Trubner, London)
Th. = Maulana Ashraf `Ali Thanvi. (B. 1280 A.H./1864 C.E.). Translator and commentator of the Holy Qur’an
UHW. = Hammerton’s ‘Universal History of the World,’ 8 Vols. (New York).
VJE. = Vallentine’s ‘One Volume Jewish Encyclopedia.’ (London).
WGAL. = Wright’s ‘Grammar of the Arabic Language,’ 2 Vols. (Cambridge).
Zm. = Jar-ul-lah Zamakhsari (D. 538 A.H./1144 C.E.). Commentator of the Holy Qur’an.


Abbreviations - General
asws: `Alayhi al‑Salat wa al‑Salam (on him be peace and blessing).
ra: Radi Allahu `anhu/`anha (may Allah be pleased with him/her).
Au.: Author.
Sahihayn: Bukhari and Muslim.
saws: Sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam (May Allah send peace and blessing upon him).
swt: Subhanahu wa Ta`ala (glorified be He, the Exalted).


Technical Terms
Da`if: A weak report but not a fabricated one nor entirely untrustworthy. It has some weakness in its text or in its isnad. A kind of hadith, therefore, before which one can place a question mark.
Gharib: That report in which the isnad has a single narrator after the Companion.
Hasan: A da`if report but above in strength over the one classified as da`if. Several da`if versions (unless too weak) render a hadith hasan.
Isnad: Chain of narrators.
Mawquf: A report whose chain of narration stops at a Companion.
Munkar: A kind of da`if hadith that has no other report through any other chain of narrators for a double check.
Mursal: A hadith which has been transmitted directly from the Prophet (saws) by a tabe`i, without a Companion in between Mutawatir: A report by such a large number of narrators whose agreement upon a lie is inconceivable.
Sahih: A trustworthy report.


The transliteration method used in this work neither conforms to the international standards, nor it has been applied extensively. It is only where it was thought that some confusion might occur that a few marks have been added. However, the method is as follows:
( ث ) is transliterated as "tha" ; ( ح ) as "ha" ; ( ذ ) as "dhal" ; ( ز ) and ( ظ ) both as "za" ; ( ص ) as "sad" ; ( ض ) as "dad" ; ( ع ) as "`ayn" ; and hamza ( ه ) as “ ' “ e.g. Jibra’il.


Vowels have been expressed in the following manner
( ا ) is expressed as "a", so that ( باب ) is written as "bab" ; (و ) is expressed with "u" , as for example ( نون ) is written as "nun"; ( ي ) is expressed with "i", as in the word (سين ) which is written as "sin".


  • Surah No. 24

    Merits of the Surah

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ سُورَةٌ أَنْزَلْنَاهَا وَفَرَضْنَاهَا وَأَنْزَلْنَا فِيهَا آيَاتٍ بَيِّنَاتٍ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ (1)

    24|1| (This is)1 a surah which We have sent down, made obligatory;2 and revealed therein verses clear (of evidences),3 that haply you may take heed.

    1. The words in parenthesis are from Ibn Jarir.
    2. The great majority have read the text as it appears in all copies now. But Mujahid read “farad-naha” as “farrad-naha,” explaining the term as, “We have expounded it, and have sent down thereby commandments of various sort.” But most others, having read it as “farad naha,” understood it as meaning, “We have made obligatory the injunctions therein” (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Qurtubi, Alusi).
    Al-Fard in Arabic is to break up a thing. Hence “Fara’id al-Mirath” i.e., “Breakup of the inherited property” (Qurtibi).
    Majid, and after him Mawdudi, both stress on the emphatic form of the address here. In the simpler words of Mawdudi, “(That is), whatever has been said in this Surah is not in the nature of ‘recommendations’ or ‘suggestions’, that may or may not be followed.. They are, instead, categorical commands which must be followed.. Further, far from being ambiguous, these commands are couched in terms which are both clear and categorical.. No other Surah of the Qur’an has a more forceful preamble.”
    3. Asad writes: “It would seem that the special stress on God’s having laid down this Surah ‘in plain terms’ is connected with the gravity of the injunctions spelt out in the sequence: in other words, it implies a solemn warning against any attempt at widening or re-defining those injunctions by means of deductions, inferences or any other considerations unconnected with the plain words of the Qur’an.”

    الزَّانِيَةُ وَالزَّانِي فَاجْلِدُوا كُلَّ وَاحِدٍ مِنْهُمَا مِائَةَ جَلْدَةٍ ۖ وَلَا تَأْخُذْكُمْ بِهِمَا رَأْفَةٌ فِي دِينِ اللَّهِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ ۖ وَلْيَشْهَدْ عَذَابَهُمَا طَائِفَةٌ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (2)

    24|2| The fornicatress4 and the fornicator:5 lash each of the twain6 (with) a hundred stripes.7 And, in matter of Allah’s religion, no tenderness for the two should take hold of you,8 if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a group of believers witness their chastisement.9

    4. English dictionaries define fornication and adultery variously. We have for our convenience chosen to use throughout this discourse the term fornication for sex of the ghayr muhsin (roughly, the unmarried) and adultery for illegal sex committed after ihsan (consummation of marriage).
    Commentators have pointed out that in the verse (5: 38),

    {وَالسَّارِقُ وَالسَّارِقَةُ فَاقْطَعُوا أَيْدِيَهُمَا جَزَاءً بِمَا كَسَبَا نَكَالًا مِنَ اللَّهِ} [المائدة: 38]

    “As for the thief - man or woman - amputate their hands, as a recompense for what they have earned: a punishment exemplary from Allah..” the male was mentioned first. But in the present verse it is the female fornicator that has been mentioned first. Why? It is because it is women who allow fornication to happen.
    The affair starts with the eye-contact. It is by the means of looks in her eyes that a woman expresses her consent to go further on the road to sin. Encouraged by the looks in the eyes, man makes proposals with the help of sneaky insinuations. When acceptance is shown by the other side, then come direct proposals leading to moral corruption of both. If a woman refuses to respond through eye contact, there is nothing the male can do about it. In fact, right up to the end the woman can refuse. If she is not ready, there is no course left to the man but to withdraw. Thus, women are the major cause of fornication and perhaps the reason why her mention preceded that of man (Au.).
    5. That is, not the married adulterer and adulteress but rather the unmarried fornicator and fornicatress (Ibn Jarir).
    6. The textual word for “lash each of the two” is preceded by a “fa” which is known as “fa shartiyyah” (the conditioning fa) implying that they might be lashed only if the crime is well proven (Qurtubi). Thus a single syllable serves the function of a sentence (Au.).
    Alusi presents a few other reasons for which one might look up into the original.
    7. An incident preserved by Bukhari provides us some legal details:

    قَالَ إِنَّ ابْنِى كَانَ عَسِيفًا عَلَى هَذَا ، فَزَنَى بِامْرَأَتِهِ ، وَإِنِّى أُخْبِرْتُ أَنَّ عَلَى ابْنِى الرَّجْمَ ، فَافْتَدَيْتُ مِنْهُ بِمِائَةِ شَاةٍ وَوَلِيدَةٍ ، فَسَأَلْتُ أَهْلَ الْعِلْمِ فَأَخْبَرُونِى أَنَّمَا عَلَى ابْنِى جَلْدُ مِائَةٍ ، وَتَغْرِيبُ عَامٍ ، وَأَنَّ عَلَى امْرَأَةِ هَذَا الرَّجْمَ . فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ - صلى الله عليه وسلم - « وَالَّذِى نَفْسِى بِيَدِهِ لأَقْضِيَنَّ بَيْنَكُمَا بِكِتَابِ اللَّهِ ، الْوَلِيدَةُ وَالْغَنَمُ رَدٌّ ، وَعَلَى ابْنِكَ جَلْدُ مِائَةٍ وَتَغْرِيبُ عَامٍ ، اغْدُ يَا أُنَيْسُ إِلَى امْرَأَةِ هَذَا فَإِنِ اعْتَرَفَتْ فَارْجُمْهَا » . قَالَ فَغَدَا عَلَيْهَا فَاعْتَرَفَتْ ، فَأَمَرَ بِهَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ - صلى الله عليه وسلم - فَرُجِمَتْ

    It is reported that two bedouins came to the Prophet (saws). One of them said, “This son of mine was a house-servant in this man’s house. He fornicated with his wife. So I ransomed my son by offering a hundred goats and a slave-girl. Then I consulted the knowledgeable people and they told me that my son should be whipped a hundred times and banished for one year, and that the woman should be stoned to death.” The Prophet answered, “I shall rule by the Book of Allah. The slave-girl and the goats may be returned to you. Your son should be whipped and banished for a year.” (Then he pointed) and said, “O Unays, rise up and seek to know from the woman. If she admits, stone her to death.” He went up to her, she admitted and was stoned to death. Accordingly, all three Imams have ruled that a free unmarried person, if he is mature of body and sound of mind, should be whipped and banished for a year. Imam Abu Haneefah however ruled that the banishment is the prerogative of the ruler. He could banish if he wished or imprison him for a year (Razi, Ibn Kathir).
    The hadith also proves that if one or both are married, then the Islamic punishment for adultery is death by stoning. And, the Prophet’s words, “I shall rule by the Book of Allah” go to prove that a verse specifically mentioning stoning to death was there in the Qur’an. Otherwise, the verses in question do not recommend stoning to death which was what the Prophet (saws) decided for the woman. The rajm verse has been taken off recitation, but the injunction remains in practice. According to a hadith in Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Da’ud, Nasa’i, Ibn Majah and Ahmad, the Prophet said,

    خُذُوا عَنِّى خُذُوا عَنِّى قَدْ جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لَهُنَّ سَبِيلاً الثَّيِّبُ بِالثَّيِّبِ جَلْدُ مِائَةٍ وَرَمْىٌ بِالْحِجَارَةِ وَالْبِكْرُ بِالْبِكْرِ جَلْدُ مِائَةٍ وَنَفْىُ سَنَةٍ

    “Take from me, take from me. Allah has made a way for them. A married with a married person: a hundred lashes and stoning to death; a virgin with a virgin: a hundred lashes and exile for a year."
    And, when he said, “Allah has made a way for them,” the Prophet was referring to the verse in Surah al-Nisa’ (no. 15) which said,

    {وَاللَّاتِي يَأْتِينَ الْفَاحِشَةَ مِنْ نِسَائِكُمْ فَاسْتَشْهِدُوا عَلَيْهِنَّ أَرْبَعَةً مِنْكُمْ فَإِنْ شَهِدُوا فَأَمْسِكُوهُنَّ فِي الْبُيُوتِ حَتَّى يَتَوَفَّاهُنَّ الْمَوْتُ أَوْ يَجْعَلَ اللَّهُ لَهُنَّ سَبِيلًا } [النساء: 15]

    “Such of your women as commit indecency let four of you testify against them. If they do testify then detain them in the homes until death overtakes them or Allah appoints for them a way” (Shafi`).
    See notes 60-75 of Sura al-Nisa’ of this work for a few other details.
    Hence `Umar is recorded in the Sahihayn as having said while on the mimbar,

    أما بعد، أيها الناس، فإن الله بعث محمدًا بالحق، وأنزل عليه الكتاب، فكان فيما أنزل عليه آية الرجم، فقرأناها وَوَعَيْناها، وَرَجمَ رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وَرَجمْنا بعده، فأخشى أن يطول بالناس زمان أن يقول قائل: لا نجد آية الرجم في كتاب الله، فيضلوا بترك فريضة قد أنزلها الله

    “People. Allah sent Muhammad with Truth and sent down a Book which once contained the verse pertaining to rajm. We read it and stored it in knowledge. Following that, the Prophet stoned (the adulterer) to death, and we did the same after him. But I fear that after a long time has passed someone will say, ‘We do not find the commandment of rajm in the Book of Allah.’ They would thus abandon a commandment that was revealed in the Book and will go astray for not following what Allah has revealed.”
    According to a report in Musnad Ahmad, he added,

    وَلَوْلاَ أَنْ يَقُولَ قَائِلُونَ أَوْ يَتَكَلَّمَ مُتَكَلِّمُونَ أَنَّ عُمَرَ زَادَ فِى كِتَابِ اللَّهِ مَا لَيْسَ مِنْهُ لأَثْبَتُّهَا فِى كِتَابِ اللَّهِ كَمَا نُزِّلَتْ

    “If not for the fear that people would say `Umar added into the Book of Allah, I would have got the rajm commandment added to Allah's book, as it was revealed.”
    `Umar also predicted that there will be people (in this Ummah) who will reject rajm, intercession, punishment in the grave, and that people will be removed from the Fire after they have been burnt (to coals). Another report of Nasa’i has Zayd b. Thabit (the scribe who wrote the Qur’an) says,

    وإن كنا لنقرأ فيها : والشيخ والشيخة إذا زنيا فارجموهما ألبتة ... فرفع فيما رفع

    “We used to recite (in the Qur’an) the verse, ‘The old man and the old woman that commit adultery, stone them to death.’ But later, it was withdrawn among those that were withdraen” (Razi, Ibn Kathir).
    In other words, it is not these words, “the old man and the old woman ..” that were the words removed from the memory. They forgot the actual words (Au.).
    The above is one of the many versions. Bukhari and Muslim also have the first part of the above report (Au.).
    Thus, adds Alusi, apart from the reports of the Prophet’s own example, stoning to death is proved by the Ijma` of the Ummah. If the reports from the Prophet (saws) are of the Ahad kind (singletons), then the consent of the Companions accords it legality. For, when `Umar spoke of the punishment by stoning to death, and that he wished he could insert it as a footnote in the Mus-haf, none of the Companions disagreed with him according the issue the status of “Ijma` al-sukuti” (silent consent).
    Mawdudi wrote: “This practice (of stoning to death) was also followed (after the Prophet) by each of the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs during their respective periods of rule. Besides, they openly declared this to be the punishment for such an offence. The Companions and Successors were completely unanimous in their views on this verse. Not a single statement was made by anyone which might lead one to conclude that anyone in the early period of Islam had any doubts about the validity of this punishment. Even in later times, leading Muslim jurists in different parts of the world were unanimous that this punishment was a well-established practice of the Prophet (peace be on him).”
    Indeed, apart from the woman of the above incident, we also have the incidents of Ma`iz Aslami and the Ghamidi woman who were both stoned to death (Au.).
    The punishment of stoning to death is not peculiar to Islam. That was the punishment prescribed in the Mosaic Law which Jesus Christ confirmed as valid. Majid quotes from the Jewish Encyclopedia (v. III, p. 554): “Prostitution by a betrothed virgin, .. and the rebellious son are, according to the Pentateuchal laws, to be punished with death by stoning.” This is substantiated by Torah texts. One of them says, “If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones..” (Deuteronomy, 22: 23-6). The Talmud stipulates a punishment for the daughter of a priest that the Jews might not want the non-Jews to know. Mawdudi quotes: “.. if a man fornicates with the daughter of a priest, according to Judaic law, he is to be hanged until death, whereas the girl is to be burnt alive (Everyman’s Talmud, pp. 319-20).” Either of the two, Hinduism or Judaism, seem to be influenced by the other, for, as Mawdudi quotes again, the Dharma Shastra of Manu says that if a girl is a Brahmin, and the male a non-Brahmin, then the punishment would be to burn alive the man” (Mawdudi).
    Jesus confirmed that the law of stoning to death was still valid. He was brought a woman who had fornicated. The Jews had brought her to him in the hope of trapping him. If he judged that the woman was to be stoned to death following the Judaic law, he could have got arrested for judging by other than the Roman Law. If he had, on the other hand, judged by the Roman Law, which did not allow for stoning to death, he stood to be condemned as a false Prophet. But he defeated their purposes. The whole story, which reads still beautiful, is as follows:
    “Jesus went to the mount of Olives. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him; and he sat down and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought to him a woman taken in adultery: and when they had set her in the midst. They said to him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned; but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with [his] finger wrote on the ground, [as though he heard them not]. So when they continued asking him, he raised himself, and said to them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they who heard [it], being convicted by [their own] conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, [even] to the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised himself, and saw none but the woman, he said to her, Woman, where are those thy accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8: 1-10).
    The above shows that the Hebraic law required stoning to death as punishment for adultery. It was not applied however, because of common prevalence. Majid brings to our notice the following: “Capital punishment (among the Israelites) was of such rare occurrence as to be practically abrogated. In fact, many a judge declared openly for its abolition, and a court which had pronounced one sentence of death in seven years was called the court of murderers.” Indeed, the Jews went further and slandered their Prophets and holy men in order to mitigate their own sexual crimes. Majid quotes from History of Prostitution by Scott, “Most of the old Hebrew prophets and lawmakers themselves patronized harlots, and looked upon such escapades as the mildest of paccadillos .. In short, promiscuous sexual relations on the part of men, so long as they were not duly advertised, came in for little in the way of censure.”
    As regards lashing before stoning to death, whether it is mandatory or not, it might be noticed that the two in the case quoted above were not lashed. The opinion of the Fuqaha’ therefore was that it is not mandatory, except that Imam Ahmad ruled that an adulterer must be first lashed, following the Qur’an, and then stoned to death, following the Sunnah. Imam `Ali too was of this opinion. In his own time he got a woman first whipped on a Thursday and then got her stoned to death on a Friday remarking, “I got her whipped following the Book of Allah, and stoned to death following the Prophet’s Sunnah” (Ibn Kathir).
    8. What exactly is the implication of the words “No tenderness for them should seize you?” Is it the feeling of pity on them that is disapproved of? No. It implies that 'your pity should not prevent you from inflicting the punishment as prescribed.' That is what the addition of the words, “in Allah’s religion” lends. That is how Mujahid, Sa`id ibn Jubayr, Ibn Jurayj and others understood it. Abu Hurayrah is reported to have said, “Execution of one of Allah’s prescribed punishment on a piece of land is better for its people than forty nights of rain.” Abu Hurayrah then recited this verse.
    The above is sometimes attributed to the Prophet, but that is incorrect. They are Abu Hurayra's own words (Au.).
    And hence, as Abu Mujliz and Ibn Zayed said, once the case has been presented to the authorities, they should show no tenderness towards the perpetrators, but rather, punish them according to the law. However, they may not go an extra mile in punishing them. For example, when `Umar’s unmarried slave-girl committed fornication, and the time for whipping came, he pointed to the lasher at her legs – meaning strike her there. Someone reminded him, “No tenderness for them should seize you.” He answered, “Should I kill her?” (Ibn Jarir); according to other reports, "We have not been asked to kill her."
    As for the feelings of pity for the sinners, it should always be there. Why, it should be there for animals too! We have a hadith in Ahmad which says that a Companion told the Prophet,

    يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنِّى لأَذْبَحُ الشَّاةَ وَأَنَا أَرْحَمُهَا أَوْ قَالَ إِنِّى لأَرْحَمُ الشَّاةَ أَنْ أَذْبَحَهَا. فَقَالَ: وَالشَّاةُ إِنْ رَحِمْتَهَا رَحِمَكَ اللَّهُ

    “Messenger of Allah, when I slaughter a sheep I feel sorry for it.” He replied, “As for the sheep, if you felt compassion for her, Allah will show you compassion” (Ibn Kathir).
    Haythamiyy remarked in the Zawaa'id that t he above report is trustworthy (Au.).
    Some have, all the same, understood the words to mean, whip them hard so that they feel the pain. Qatadah, Hasan, Sa`id b. al-Musayyib figure here, although they do not seem to have much ground for this opinion since, after all, levels of the pain felt being different from person to person, the strength of the lashes cannot be determined (Ibn Jarir reworded, Ibn Kathir).
    Mawdudi looks at various aspects of the issues involved and offers a detailed study. The reader will do well to study the original. We pick up a few sentences from here and there. He writes: “Unlawful sex is viewed by Islam as a crime which, if no steps are taken to curb it, strikes at the very root of humanity and civilization. Both the survival of the human race and the continuity of man’s collective existence make it imperative that sexual relations between men and women are confined to their lawful forms alone.” Elsewhere, “In fact, human society cannot even come into being without the matrimonial tie which makes a man and woman live together and, thus, found a family and thereafter foster further relationships between other families, which in turn gives birth to a community and a society. If a man and a woman were to start freely meeting each other just for the purpose of mutual enjoyment in total disregard of the objective of establishing a family, then this would strike a fatal blow to man’s collective life and demolish the very foundation on which society is built.”
    9. The word in the text for group is “ta’ifah” which is applicable to any number of people above one. Hence Mujahid’s opinion was that the presence of even one meets with the condition. Qatadah, Zuhri and others thought that at least three persons should witness the punishment (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Asad adds: “The number of those to be present has been deliberately left unspecified, thus indicating that while the punishment must be given publicity, it need not be made a ‘public spectacle.’”
    As regards the purpose of a group of people witnessing the scene, apart from the obvious feelings of shame and guilt that their presence is likely to provoke, it is a means of admonition to those present. It is also expected that the group will, as Nasr b. `Alqamah has said in a report in Ibn Abi Hatim, pray for their forgiveness (Ibn Kathir).
    The strong deterring effect cannot be overemphasized (Au.).
    General Notes
    “Islamic jurisprudence, in this respect, stands in ‘splendid isolation’ from the laws of many other nations. Among the Greeks, and also in early Rome, illicit sexual intercourse was no crime at all unless a married woman was involved. Even in ‘Great Britain’ it was reckoned a spiritual offence, that is cognizable by the spiritual courts only. The common law took no further notice of it than to allow the party aggrieved an action of damage.’ (EBr. I. p. 234, 11th ed.)” – Majid.
    There are four crimes for which the Qur’an and ahadith mutawatirah have themselves fixed the punishment, not leaving them to the opinion of a jurist or a ruler. These are known as hudud. They are only four: Theft, slander, intoxication and illicit sex. For other kinds of crimes, the Shari`ah has not prescribed the punishment, but rather, has left to the discretion and judgment of the rulers and law enforcing authorities. Such of them are known as ta`zirat (Shafi`).
    “(In view of the requirement of four eye-witnesses to the crime of adultery), it might be thought that the punishment prescribed is an illusory thing, affecting no one, and that it can never be applied. The answer is that Islamic system of life is not built on punishments. But rather on the prevention of the causes that lead to crimes. It also relies on the purification of the souls and the cleansing of the conscience, as also on the good feelings that the hearts give rise to and prevent a man from committing crimes that disconnect him who commits and the society at large. Therefore, it does not punish but either the braggart who does it so openly that the people are able to witness, or someone who admits and seeks redemption, like Ma`iz Aslami or the Ghamidiyy woman” (Sayyid).
    Fiqh Points
    • Zamakhshari in brief but Imam Razi, Qurtubi and Alusi deal with various issue involved at great length. We present only the main points ignoring the substantiations that go with them. To draw advantage from ready-made translations, we have taken some notes from Mawdudi, even if found in Arabic commentaries:
    • Adultery is a major sin. Allah (swt) mentioned it along with shirk and murder. He defined the believers in words (25: 68), “And those who do not call upon another deity along with Allah, do not kill a soul that Allah has forbidden save in right, and do not commit adultery; and whoever did that, will meet a great sin.” Its final commanded was preceded by a lesser one as prescribed in (4: 15) which said (although there, it was only women who were mentioned: Au.), “Such of your women as commit indecency let four of you testify against them. If they do testify then detain them in the homes until death overtakes them or Allah appoints for them a way.”
    • Zina has been defined as “A man having sex with a woman in her vagina, she being other than his legal wife, without he owning her, with or without consent of the woman, and he without any doubt about the identity of the woman.” (That is, the man might not have mistaken her for his wife: Au.).
    • The definition would remain the same in reverse if the accused is a woman.
    • The conditions for “ihsan” are, according to Imam Abu Hanifah, six: Islam, freedom, soundness of intellect, puberty, a legal marriage and, consummation.
    • A Muslim who has married a slave-girl, a child, a mad woman or a woman of the People of the Book, is, technically not a “muhsin” (Alusi).
    • The commandment of death by stoning have been reported by Abu Bakr, `Umar, `Ali, Jabir b. `Abdullah, Abu Sa`id al-Khudri, Abu Hurayrah, Buraydah Aslami, Zayd b. Khalid and many other Companions.
    • Although the act is of the same class, greater number of scholars have ruled that technically sodomy is not Zina.
    • Adultery of a married pair entails stoning of both to death. (This is proved by reports that have come to us through mutawatir narrators, even if the reports do not attain the strict technical mutwatir status. The evidence for the prescribed punishment (rajm) is of the same nature as `Ali’s courage. We do not have a report about his courage that can be technically declared mutawatir, but at the same time the fact is so well-known that it can be declared as something beyond doubt (Alusi).
    • If one of them is not married, then it is a hundred lashes for the crime.
    • According to Imam Shafe`i, the punishment for sodomy is the same as that for adultery: either stoning to death, or lashes, and an year’s exile, depending upon the marital condition of the perpetrator. Malik, Ahmad and Is-haq are of the same opinion. Abu Bakr thought that a wall should be demolished over him. `Ali ibn abi Talib however said that he might be thrown down a cliff, which (both opinions: Au.) seem to be influenced by the punishment Allah (swt) meted out to the people of Lut.
    • Abu Hanifah, Malik and Thawri have ruled that to have sex with an animal is not zina. Nevertheless, the person involved deserves to be punished (Razi). And the animal should be killed (Au.).
    • Imam Shafe`i has ruled that a virgin male committing fornication may be lashed and then exiled for a year. He followed the report of the Prophet’s time of a farm worker committing sex with his master’s wife who was exiled. Imam Malik ruled that the male should be exiled but not a female. Abu Hanifah however said that exile should be left to the Amir to decide, (it is not essential part of the punishment) for, a singleton report (ahad) cannot abrogate a Qur’anic rule which did not mention exile. Also, during the time of `Umar when he exiled someone, the exiled man went and joined the Romans. So `Umar remarked, “Here onward I shall not exile anyone” (Razi). It is possible the Prophet had exiled the young man for a specific reason (Alusi).
    • With reference to adultery, the following are a few other conditions for the application of hadd (capital punishment): (a) adulthood, (b) soundness of mind, (c) free (and not a slave), (d) a properly conducted marriage, and (e) consummation of marriage (dukhul) - sex before puberty does not remove the condition of ihsan, this was the opinion of Abu Hanifah, (f) Islam (i.e., the sinners should be Muslims) since, according to Abu Hanifah, greater responsible position (as that of a Muslim) entails greater punishment as against a Dhimmi who has lesser responsibility (to behave) not having received the message of Islam. However, Shafe`i disagreed with Abu Hanifah over this and said that it is not necessary for a person to be a Muslim to receive the Islamic hadd since the Prophet (saws) had ordered a Jewish pair to be stoned to death.
    • The four witnesses required for proving adultery where the sinners do not admit, must testify that they saw the very act and the very organs one in another. That they saw them on top of one another might not prove the case (Au.).
    • As regards confession of the crime, according to Imam Shafe`i, one admission is enough, but Abu Hanifah ruled that the accused must admit four times in different sittings before he can be delivered the capital punishment. On the other hand Imam Ahmad said that four confessions were enough, even if in one sitting.
    • If the accused does not confess, medical examination will not be conducted to determine whether sexual intercourse did occur (Mawdudi).
    • “The majority of jurists.. do not consider the mere fact of pregnancy a sufficient ground to subject anyone to lapidation or flogging” (Mawdudi).
    • In case of accusation or confession, the identity of the partner in crime, man or woman, will not be demanded (Mawdudi).
    • The other party, if identified by the partner, will not be prosecuted on the basis of the accusation alone if he denies involvement (Mawdudi).
    • In fact, a person voluntarily admitting the crime may not be immediately subjected to the capital punishment, since, as Mawdudi puts it, “Islamic law does not make it obligatory for people to confess their crimes. Nor does it make obligatory for them to report offences committed by others to the authorities.” According to a report in Bukhari, when someone came to the Prophet and said that he had committed a crime and deserved hadd punishment, he paid no attention to him. A little later, when the man rose up after his Prayer behind the Prophet and said, “I am guilty, so punish me,” the Prophet (saws) asked, “Did you not offer Prayers with us just now?” When he said yes, the Prophet told him, “Allah has pardoned your sin” (Mawdudi modified).
    • “However, once the authorities are informed that such an offence has been committed, there remains no room to spare the guilty the required punishment.. (When Hazzal had led Ma’iz Aslami to report his sin to the Prophet, which led to his death by stoning), the Prophet told Hazzal, “Had you covered his crime with your garment, it would have been better for you” (Mawdudi).
    • In case of qadhf (slander), the hadd punishment will only be applied when the slandered demands it. If he or she forgives, the courts will take no action (Shafi`).
    • A slave receives half the punishment as a free Muslim does. And since half of stoning to death is not executable, they are only flogged. According to some, the fornicators receive only forty lashes.
    • There is no difference in opinion that it is an established Muslim authority, i.e., an Islamic state, that can execute Islamic capital punishments. A corollary of this is that, since application of capital punishment is obligatory in Islam, establishing a state on Islamic principles also becomes obligatory.
    • Nevertheless, as regards slaves, Imam Shafe`i’s opinion was that a master could execute the Islamic punishments on his slaves. But, once again, Abu Hanifah differed. He would not allow such authority and such powers to anyone except an Islamic state. As regards the hadith which instructs that if a slave-girl commits fornication twice, the master may whip her, it should be understood in the general sense of “punish her” and not in the sense of “execute the Islamic punishment.”
    • Testimony of only those witnesses who fulfill the conditions laid down by Islamic Law as being trustworthy can be accepted (Mawdudi).
    • Whipping should be neither light nor hard. Zamakhshari points out that the Qur’anic word “fajlidu” with its root in “jild” (meaning skin) implies: do not whip so hard as to hurt the flesh, nor so light as to spare the skin too of the pain. When `Umar was brought a tough looking whip he said, “This is hard. Bring me a lighter one.” So they brought a light one. He remarked, “This is too soft. Bring me something in between.” Qurtubi reports that once `Umar handed over a whip to a lasher and remarked: “Here, whip him but let not your arm-pit be exposed.” In fact, once `Umar got a lasher lashed twenty strokes for having lashed another too hard.
    • The number of strokes could however be increased in more serious cases. For example when somebody was brought to `Umar in a drunken state in the month of Ramadan, he ordered that he be given a hundred lashes: eighty for drinking, and twenty for defiling Ramadan. Similarly, when a man was found molesting a child, the governor of the town ordered that he be given three hundred lashes. When Imam Malik came to know of the judgment, he did not object to it (Qurtubi).
    • There is no need to remove a man’s ordinary clothes at the time he is whipped. But he should not be allowed to wear padded ones. As for a woman, in no case any part of the body should be uncovered. In fact, she should be so well wrapped that no part gets accidentally uncovered during whipping.
    • A male is to receive the lashes from a standing posture, but a Muslimah should be made to sit.
    • All parts of the body might receive the lashes, but not the face, the stomach, or the private parts. Although some have allowed whipping on the head, Imam Abu Hanifah would not allow it. Imam Razi’s own belief is that hitting on the head can result in injury to the brain. This opinion is influenced by the Prophet’s words to Hilal b. Umayyah who brought to him the accusation against his wife. The Prophet (saws) remarked: “Either you produce four witnesses, or you will receive lashes on your back.”
    • It is not allowed to whip in small numbers at a time, say two lashes a day. However, larger break down, such as twenty a day, is allowed. Alusi adds: Once `Ali (b. Abi Talib) whipped a man with a branched whip, giving him forty lashes. That is, he counted each stroke as equal to two.
    • A pregnant woman may not be whipped until she has delivered.
    • A sick man may not be whipped until he recovers. If he suffers from a permanent disease of dangerous order, he may not be whipped at all. He might, instead, be lashed just once with a broom made up of a eighty strands. This is following the instruction to Ayyub, who had sworn that he would whip his wife a hundred times, but wished to find a way out. Allah ordered him (38: 44), “And take in your hand a (bunch of) grass, and strike therewith: and break not (your oath)..”
    • Whipping should be done in normal weather conditions, when it is neither too cold nor too hot.
    • According to Imam Shafe`i and Ahmad, the Imam (judge) or the witnesses may or may not witness the execution of the punishment. However, Abu Hanifah ruled that in case of stoning to death, the witnesses should throw the first stones, then the Imam (judge) and then others. The Prophet himself however did not attend the stoning to death of either Ma`iz al-Aslami or of the Ghamidiyyah woman.
    • If fornication or adultery is proved through free confession, capital punishment will still be withheld if the person recants. This was the opinion of Abu Hanifah, Thawri, Ahmad and Is-haq.
    • A woman is to be buried up to her breast in the ground before stoning begins. But a man need not be so buried. Ma`iz Aslami was not buried and so he began to run away when the stoning began, although he had brought the case of adultery against himself, and had insisted on the enforcement of the punishment. When he ran away, he was caught and stoned to death. When the incident was reported to the Prophet (saws), he remarked, “Why did not you let him escape?”
    • If a man and woman are found enwrapped in a sheet, and so it is not possible to establish whether they had sex or not, the hadd is not applicable. However, `Umar, `Ali, `Ata’, Malik and Ahmad have said that they should be given a hundred lashes each (Alusi).
    • When dead, the sinner(s) might be given bathing and buried in the normal manner.
    • If a man has sex with his wife’s slave-girl, he will face the hadd punishment (Qurtubi).
    • There is no Allah-prescribed punishment (hadd) for slandering an unbeliever, man or woman. On the other hand if a non-Muslim falsely accuses a Muslim, he will be given eighty lashes (Qurtubi).
    • If a slave slanders a free person, he or she will receive half the punishment, forty lashes. This is following the instruction in verse 25 of Surah al-Nisa’ (Qurtubi).
    • Slandering a dead Muslim is as good as slandering someone alive, but up to one generation and not further up to second-generation or third (i.e., grandfather and above). If a heir (say a son) takes the case to the court, and the crime is not proved, the accuser will receive lashes (Alusi).
    • There is no prescribed punishment for a master who falsely accuses his slave. This is following a hadith in the Sahihayn which says: “Whoever accused his slave will have the hadd (the legal punishment) executed on him on the Day of Judgment, unless the slave committed what he was accused of” (Qurtubi).
    • If one of the four witnesses evinces uncertainty, the other three will be lashed (Qurtubi).
    • Imam Shafe`i and Malik have ruled that fornication is forbidden by Allah (swt). Therefore, if a Muslim commits it in non-Muslim lands, hadd should be executed on him. But As-hab al-Ra’yi (presumably Hanafiyyah) have said that if fornication is committed in Dar al-Harb, a Muslim might not be punished by Islamic Law in the Islamic land (Qurtubi).
    (In the statements above, it is remarkable to note that although Razi was himself a general follower of the Shafe`i Maslak, he clearly indicated his inclination to accept Hanafiyy position on several points (Au.).
    Hadith literature has preserved a few cases of adultery or fornication that were brought to the notice of the Prophet: They were all Muslims while one involved a Jewish pair. Two of them have already been referred to. Hereunder are three others, stated briefly.
    (i) Muslim reports: Ma`iz b. Malik al-Aslami came to the Prophet (saws) and said, “Messenger of Allah. I have sinned, so purify me.” The Prophet turned his face away from him and told him, “Go away and seek Allah’s forgiveness.” But Ma`iz appeared again and again. At the third time the Prophet sent word to his tribe to find out if there was anything wrong with the man. They said nothing was wrong with him and that he was otherwise a righteous person. When Ma`iz came back a fourth time the Prophet asked him, “(Purify you?) Of what should I purify you?” He replied, “Of adultery.” The Prophet (saws) asked the people around him, “Is this man out of his mind?” They said no, he was perfectly in his senses. Then he asked if he was drunk. So someone went up, smelled his mouth and said, “No he is not drunk.” Then the Prophet asked, “Did you commit adultery?” He replied, “Yes.” He asked him, “Did you have sexual intercourse with her” He said, “Yes.” He asked him, “Did yours disappear into hers?” He replied, “Yes, like a kohl-stick into its bottle.” So the Prophet ordered that he be stoned to death. They took him to Baqi` fields and stoned him to death. The Prophet did not go. When they began to stone him he ran away. He was chased, caught, and stoned until he was motionless. He actually shouted at them that he had been deceived by his tribesmen who had assured him that he would not be killed and so he should be allowed to go back to the Prophet. But the crowd wouldn’t listen to him. When the Prophet was told about it, he remarked, “You should have let him come to me.” Later he said, “Ma`iz repented a repentance that would suffice for a whole community.” According to another report in Abu Da’ud, the Prophet was going somewhere after the Ma`iz incident. He heard two men say something about the man dying the death of a dog. As he continued on his way he found the carcass of a donkey. He halted and beckoned the two. When they came up he said, “Eat out of it.” They exclaimed, “Messenger of Allah, who can eat of it?” He said, “Your indulgence just now in the honor of your brother was worse than eating from this carcass. By Him in whose hands is my life, just now he is in the rivers of Paradise, diving in and out of them.”
    (ii) The second incident is in Muslim and other books. They speak of a woman from the Ghamid tribe. She came and reported that she had committed the sin. The Prophet (saws) told her, “Woe unto you. Go and seek Allah’s forgiveness.” She replied, “Rather not. Perhaps you want to turn me back as you had tried to turn back Ma`iz. But I am pregnant from the sin.” The Prophet told her, “Come back after you have delivered.” So she came back after the birth. He told her that the child was too young and that she was to breast feed her. So she went back and came later with a piece of bread in the child’s hand. The Prophet said, “I am not going to get you stoned to death while the baby has no one to look after.” At that point one of the Ansar said, “I volunteer to look after the child.” So the Prophet ordered her stoned to death. When Khalid b. Walid threw a stone at her, her spattered blood sprinkled his clothes. He cursed her. The Prophet told him (later), “She repented a repentance which, if distributed over the people of Madinah, would have sufficed them all.”
    (iii) The case of a Jewish pair was brought to the Prophet. He was asked to judge. He went to their dwellings and after he was seated, asked them what the punishment was according to their law. They replied, “Disgrace them and then flog them.” `Abdullah ibn Sallam intervened, “You have lied. It (Torah) mentions stoning to death. Produce it.” So they brought it out and spread it before him. However, while reading they placed their hand at the portion which mentioned stoning. `Abdullah b. Sallam cried out, “Lift your finger.” They removed the finger and there it was, stoning to death. So the Prophet (saws) ordered the pair stoned to death. The narrator says, “I could see the man trying to shield the woman from the stones.”

    الزَّانِي لَا يَنْكِحُ إِلَّا زَانِيَةً أَوْ مُشْرِكَةً وَالزَّانِيَةُ لَا يَنْكِحُهَا إِلَّا زَانٍ أَوْ مُشْرِكٌ ۚ وَحُرِّمَ ذَٰلِكَ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (3)

    24|3| A fornicator does not marry10 but a fornicatress or an idolater;11 and none marries a fornicatress but a fornicator or an idolatress. That indeed is forbidden to the believers.

    10. The word “nikah” as it appears in this context (which Asad renders as: “couples with”) affords two meanings and hence the verse has been understood differently by different scholars. Originally the word was coined to mean wedlock. But with usage it came to be used for sexual intercourse also.
    11. Ibn Jarir writes: It is widely reported that there were a few prostitutes in Madianh, (some of them Jews or Christians while others Yethrabite slave-girls: Alusi), who were available on hire. They placed signs over their houses and anyone could enter freely. Now, there were many migrant Muslims (As-hab al-Suffah: Qurtubi) who were too poor to be able to marry. So they thought they could for the moment fill the void by marrying one of them. Some of the owners thought they might even use them as a source of income. They consulted the Prophet (saws) who prohibited them saying that they were fit for fornicators and pagans alone. Subsequent to that this verse was revealed. (The reports are widely reported: Qurtubi. They are in Ahmad and Nasa’i: Ibn Kathir).
    The report of Marthad b. Abi Marthad meeting his old lover `Inaq as he penetrated Makkah to smuggle out some Muslims is quite widely reported. After one such operation, during which he encountered her, he expressed his wish to marry her if the Prophet would allow and this verse was revealed.
    Shawkani traces the report in Abu Da’ud, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i, Ibn Jarir, Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Abi Hatim, Ibn Marduwayh, Bayhaqi and Hakim, the last of whom declared it trustworthy. And S. Ibrahim adds that Albani too thought it was trustworthy.
    In any case, there is almost consensus of opinion that a fornicator or fornicatress could be taken in marriage if they sincerely repent (Ibn Kathir); although there is a hadith which says,
    لا ينكح الزاني المجلود إلا مثله
    “A fornicator who has been whipped will not marry but someone like him.” Albani declared this hadith of Abu Da’ud and Ahmad as Sahih (S. Ibrahim).
    A group of scholars believe that this commandment stands abrogated by a verse which follows (no. 32), “And marry off your orphans..” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir). For, one problem then would be that such men and women who committed sinful sexual acts, would be forced to marry either fornicators or pagans. Ibn al-`Arabiyy was also against such a meaning, and therefore, the correct meaning seems to be, as Ibn `Abbas has said, “Sex with an adulteress does not happen but from a fornicator or a pagan.” Ibn Khuwayzmandad had another point: “Probably the verse is applicable to a fornicator who commits the act so openly as to get caught and punished. He or she should not be taken in marriage by a believer” (Qurtubi).There have been many other interpretations, too numerous for presentation (Au.).
    It is also reported that Ibn `Abbas understood that the Qur’anic statement expresses a fact, viz., none but a fornicator commits sex with a fornicator or with a pagan (Razi, Qurtubi). Thus he understood the word “nikah” in the sense of sexual intercourse. That is how Sa`id b. Jubayr, Mujahid, Dahhak and a few others understood. Ibn Jarir’s own preferred meaning is also the same. In other words, the allusion is to fornicators, adulterers, and pagans who have free sexual intercourse between themselves, which is prohibited to the Muslims.

    وَالَّذِينَ يَرْمُونَ الْمُحْصَنَاتِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَأْتُوا بِأَرْبَعَةِ شُهَدَاءَ فَاجْلِدُوهُمْ ثَمَانِينَ جَلْدَةً وَلَا تَقْبَلُوا لَهُمْ شَهَادَةً أَبَدًا ۚ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ (4)

    24|4| And those who cast (allegations against) chaste women12 but fail to produce four witnesses, lash them (with) eighty stripes and do not accept any testimony of theirs ever after.13 Those - they are the pervert (ones).14

    12. Lit., muhsanat is “women who are fortified (against unchastity), i.e., by marriage and/or faith and self-respect” (Asad). The term “muhsanat” has been the choice perhaps because any slander against a woman can be far more destructive than against a man. But there could be a linguistic reason too. Perhaps it is the “anfus” (souls) that is meant, which is feminine in Arabic and hence “muhasanat.” When the allusion was to women alone the Qur’an used the following expression (4: 24):
    {وَالْمُحْصَنَاتُ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ} [النساء: 24]
    “the chaste ones of the women” (Qurtubi).
    13. There has been difference in opinion over acceptance of someone’s testimony who falsely accused another of sexual misdemeanor. Is his testimony to be never accepted? According to Sha`bi, `Ata, Ta’us, Mujahid, Dahhak and others, if he repented and admitted that he was wrong in his accusation, his testimony could be accepted after he received his due punishment (Ibn Jarir). That was the opinion of Imam Malik also (Qurtubi). `Umar ibn `Abdul `Aziz accepted him only when another was there in his support. Qadi Shurayh however would not allow such a man’s testimony ever after that. He remarked, ‘We do not know if he has truly repented and amended or not.’ So said Hasan, Ibrahim and a few others (Ibn Jarir).
    Imam Abu Haneefah was also of the same opinion. (His opinion was that the words: “Except those who repent thereafter and make amends,” are connected with their questioning in the Hereafter. If they repent, Allah (swt) might forgive them since, as stated in the next verse, “surely then Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Kind.” As for their ban against testimony in this world, it remains (Shafi`). However the other three Imams declared that if the man repented and amended, his testimony could be accepted (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Quite a few have thought that the testimony of a person who was involved in a false case, will never be accepted again in his life, even if he repented, in matters over which he was whipped. And the differences in opinion have prevailed because of the difference over to whom the article “illa” of the fifth verse is applicable (Qurtubi).
    Asad adds: “.. Since such a complete evidence (of four eye-witnesses) is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, in practice, it is obvious that the purpose of the above Qur’anic injunction is to preclude, in practice, all third-party accusations relating to illicit sexual intercourse – for, ‘man has been created weak’ (4: 28) – and to make a proof of adultery dependent on a voluntary, faith-inspired confession of the guilty parties themselves.”
    14. The textual word for “the pervert” is fasiqun which leads us to believe that to slander a chaste person is one of the major sins in Islam (Razi). Thanwi adds: If the slanderer is lying, then he is obviously a fasiq, but if he is truthful, then too he is a fasiq for he accuses without four witnesses and unnecessarily embarrasses the accused.

    إِلَّا الَّذِينَ تَابُوا مِنْ بَعْدِ ذَٰلِكَ وَأَصْلَحُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (5)

    24|5| Except those who repent thereafter and make amends, surely then Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Kind.

    وَالَّذِينَ يَرْمُونَ أَزْوَاجَهُمْ وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُمْ شُهَدَاءُ إِلَّا أَنْفُسُهُمْ فَشَهَادَةُ أَحَدِهِمْ أَرْبَعُ شَهَادَاتٍ بِاللَّهِ ۙ إِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ (6)

    24|6| As for those who cast (allegations against) their spouses, and there are no witnesses for them except themselves, then the testimony of one of them shall be four oaths by Allah that he indeed is of the truthful.

    وَالْخَامِسَةُ أَنَّ لَعْنَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ إِنْ كَانَ مِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ (7)

    24|7| And the fifth (time) that the curse of Allah be on him if he should be of the liars.15

    15. Ibn `Abbas reports that when the verse about the requirement of four witnesses was revealed Sa`ad b. `Ubadah remarked, “Is this how it was revealed Messenger of Allah? By Allah, if I am to chance upon someone in the very act (with my wife) am I to go about looking for four witnesses? By Allah, I would not look for four witnesses and let the man finish his act (but rather, I would kill him then and there).” The Prophet (saws) complained to the Ansar about their leader Sa`ad. They said, “Messenger of Allah, indulge him, for he is a man of great sense of honor. He never married but virgins, and when he divorced a woman we did not have the courage to marry her.” It should so happen that the very next day Hilal b. Umayyah came to the Prophet to register his accusation against his wife but without four witnesses. (That was in the ninth year after Hijrah: Qurtubi). The Prophet in truth did not like to hear him, but he would not withdraw. Finally, he resorted to Li`an (mutual invocation of curse) that is, made the two swear as in the above verse. When Hilal had sworn four times the Prophet told the people to restrain him from the fifth oath since it would draw Allah’s wrath. But Hilal swore unhesitatingly the fifth time too. Similarly when the woman’s turn came she too swore four times. The Prophet told his Companions to prevent her from swearing the fifth time, as it would draw Allah’s wrath. When warned, the woman hesitated for a moment and then saying, “I shall not disgrace my people” went on to swear the fifth time. When she had done that, the Prophet spared them both the punishment, separated them and remarked, “Watch her baby. If she brings someone of such and such qualities then it belongs to the father, but if she brings one of such and such qualities then it belongs to the alleged one.” She indeed brought a well-built child, brownish, who later became a governor of Egypt. His parentage remained unknown. According to a few other reports it was Hilal b. Umayyah himself who had first entered the mosque and said to the people (commenting at the revelation of the verse about four witnesses, “(Isn’t it that) a man finds someone with his wife. Now if he killed him, you will kill him too. But if he brought her to the authorities (without the four witnesses), you will whip him?” The Prophet did not like to hear those words. And, it wasn’t even a week before he came complaining that he had seen his wife with a man (in bed), and Allah (swt) revealed the verse of mutual curse (Ibn Jarir, Razi).
    The above report is to be found in many hadith works. A shorter version is in Bukhari according to whom when she gave birth to a child similar to Shurayk b. Sahma’ (the man involved), the Prophet (saws) remarked, “If not for the testimony she bore, I would have got her stoned to death” (Ibn Kathir).
    Fiqh Rules
    • After the oath of condemnation (or, mutual invocation of curse: Li`an), the two, husband and wife, are to be separated by the court, with nothing due to either from the other.
    • Their separation will be considered talaq ba’in, that is, they can never remarry each other (Thanwi).

    وَيَدْرَأُ عَنْهَا الْعَذَابَ أَنْ تَشْهَدَ أَرْبَعَ شَهَادَاتٍ بِاللَّهِ ۙ إِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ (8)

    24|8| And it shall avert the chastisement from her that she should testify by Allah four times that he indeed is of the liars.

    وَالْخَامِسَةَ أَنَّ غَضَبَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهَا إِنْ كَانَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ (9)

    24|9| And a fifth (time) that the wrath of Allah be on her if he should be of the truthful.16

    16. The difference may be noted. A lying man receives Allah’s curse while a lying woman receives His anger. This is because it is very unlikely that a man will accuse his wife falsely (as he has the power to divorce her: Au.); while it is more likely that a woman will deny out of shame and fear of the people, hence she is promised greater punishment (Ibn Kathir, reworded).

    وَلَوْلَا فَضْلُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَتُهُ وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ حَكِيمٌ (10)

    24|10| And, if it were not for Allah’s grace and His mercy on you and (the fact) that Allah is Oft-relenting, full of Wisdom (you would have never found this guidance).17

    17. The verse ends abruptly, Asad comments: “This sentence, which introduces the section dealing with the condemnation of all unfounded or unproved accusations of unchastity – as well as the similar sentence which closes it in verse 20 – is deliberately left incomplete, leaving it to man to imagine what would have happened to individual lives and society if God had not ordained all the above legal and moral safeguards against possible false accusations, or if He had made a proof of adultery dependent on mere circumstantial evidence. This idea is further elaborated in verse 14-15.”

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ جَاءُوا بِالْإِفْكِ عُصْبَةٌ مِنْكُمْ ۚ لَا تَحْسَبُوهُ شَرًّا لَكُمْ ۖ بَلْ هُوَ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ ۚ لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مِنْهُمْ مَا اكْتَسَبَ مِنَ الْإِثْمِ ۚ وَالَّذِي تَوَلَّىٰ كِبْرَهُ مِنْهُمْ لَهُ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ (11)

    24|11| Surely, those who brought forward the lie18 are a band of you.19 Do not reckon it evil for you, rather it was good for you.20 For every one of them is what he earned of the sin;21 while he among them who took the chief part therein,22 shall have a great chastisement.23

    18. “Ifk” in Arabic is an extremely disproportionate lie or slander (Kashshaf).
    19. “`Usbah” and “`Isabah” in Arabic are for a group of people numbering ten to forty (Zamakhshari). This seems to be a later opinion. For, Qurtubi reports Ibn `Abbas’ opinion that it is a group of men from three to ten. Mujahid though said it is five to fifteen.
    What band was this? Ibn Jarir answers: except for three slanderers that we know, the others of those referred to by Allah (swt) as a band are unknown. This is what `Urwah wrote to `Abdul Malik b. Marwan: “You have asked me to identify the band but none has been named in this connection except Hassan b. Thabit, Mistah b. Uthathah and Hamnah bint Jahash.” (But of course, those three were “of you.” `Abdullah b. Ubayy b. Sallul was not “of you” of the Qur'an but rather “of them,” indeed, the arch hypocrite, and hence not counted: Au.).
    20. For, it was the great slander that caused the revelation of such important instructions (Au.).
    Mawdudi writes: “Another good that ensued from this incident was that it made the Muslims realize that the Prophet (peace be upon him), with all his spiritual loftiness and the very special mission bestowed upon him by God, did not have access to the realm that lies beyond sense-perception.”
    21. That is, to each of them is a punishment in proportion to his role in the false accusation (Zamakhshari).
    22. Dahhak has said that the one who started it first - `Abdullah b. abi Sallul – is the one “who took the chief part therein” – i.e., adds Ibn Jarir, it was he who played the main role through and through and will take the main part of the punishment too. `A’isha herself, along with many others, believed that the allusion is to `Abdullah b. abi Sallul. Although `A’isha also applied the words to Hassan b. Thabit. Masruq reports, “I was with `A’isha when Hassan visited her. She ordered that he be properly received. When he was gone, I asked her, ‘Do you do that to him who played the chief part?’ She answered, ‘Isn’t it enough that he has been struck with blindness. I would say, that is the major punishment he has received.’ (Ibn Kathir thinks the allusion of the above words to `A’isha, although in Bukhari, is doubtful since he is not the one who played the major role).
    However, it may be noted that that it is not she who said about Hassan as the one who bore the major part. As for her remark when someone said that to her, is it possible that she did not mean it seriously, but said so in the general loose sense (Au.).
    Tribal rivalry led some of Banu Umayyah to believe that `Ali was also implicated. Hisham b. `Abdul Malik said so before Zuhri. Zuhri denied it. Hisham said he was lying. Zuhri gave him a piece of his mind and added that if a caller in the clouds cried that lying was declared lawful he would not lie. Then he reported a hadith from `A’isha herself (now in Bukhari) that named Ibn Ubayy (Shawkani).
    The ten Qur’anic verses of this passage were revealed in connection with the slander cast against `A’isha. She herself narrated her story, and we present it here in a somewhat free form adding in parenthesis what a few other reports have to mention:
    The Ifk Story:
    “The Prophet used to cast lots among his wives to choose one of them to accompany him in his journeys. I was the one in whose favor the cast fell allowing me to accompany him in one of his journeys. (That was the Banu Mustaliq – also known as Muraysi` - campaign that took place in the 4th year after Hijrah: Qurtubi). This was after the commandments of hijab had been revealed. Therefore, I remained in the litter (hawdah) and stayed within when we camped. Thus we traveled until the Prophet completed the journey and began to return. As we were approaching Madinah, we paused for a while. Shortly, it was announced that the journey would be resumed. So I hastened away from the troops to attend to a call of nature. As I came back, I discovered that the borrowed necklace was gone. I went back looking for it and it took me some time to return. In the meantime the attendants who used to lift the litter, hoisted it on the camel without realizing that I was not in. After all, those days women ate mere mouthfuls and were generally thin. I found my necklace but the army was gone. So, I repaired to the place where I originally was, and not finding a caller or a responder, lay down, hoping that they would soon discover my absence. As I lay down, I fell asleep.
    “Now, Safwan b. Mu`attal had rested for the night behind the army. (He was a very courageous man whom the Prophet used to appoint as the rearguard of the main army: Qurtubi. He also picked up fallen things as the caravan advanced: Au.). He set out just before the day break and arrived at the campsite. As he approached he could see the outline of a person sleeping. As he drew near, he recognized me: he had seen me before the hijab verses were revealed. He exclaimed, “To Allah we belong and to Him we will return.” I woke up and covered my face. By Allah, he did not speak a word except to repeat “To Allah we belong ..” He brought the camel forward, made it kneel so I could climb and set out leading the camel by its halter to catch up with the army by noon.
    “Then doomed was he who was to be doomed. (Note how `A’isha avoids saying she was slandered: Au.). And the one who bore the greatest of the sin was `Abdullah ibn abi Sallul. In any case, we returned to Madinah where I fell ill for almost a month. Those days the people were talking among themselves about the slander, but I knew nothing about it. However, it did strike me as strange that the Prophet was not treating me as kindly as his usual whenever I had fallen sick. He would enter in and merely say after salutation, “How would you be?” That was what struck me as strange, otherwise I knew nothing about the affair. One night I went out to Manasi`, where we went to attend to nature’s call at night. Umm Mistah was with me.
    Those days there were no water closets in Madinan homes – in the fashion of the Arab houses. In fact, we recoiled from having them at close quarters. In any case, I went out with Umm Mistah and, as we were walking up she stumbled over her apron and murmured, ‘May Mistah (her son) be ruined.' I expressed my displeasure for she saying that about someone who had fought at Badr. So she told me all about the talk of the slanderers. (I forgot all about what I had come out for. I just didn’t feel anything about it anymore, and returned without attending to the call). The news added another illness to my previous illness. As I returned and the Prophet came in he asked me the usual “How would you be?” I asked him if I could go to my parents. Actually, I wanted to seek confirmation of the story from them. He allowed me and as I went to my parents, I asked my mother about it. She told me to take it easy since rarely it happens that a man loves a beautiful wife but his other wives should conspire against her. I couldn’t believe my ears. (I asked her if Abu Bakr knew. She said yes. Then I asked if the Prophet knew. She answered yes. I began to cry. Abu Bakr was on the roof reciting the Qur’an. Hearing my voice he came down and asked what the matter was. He was told that I had learnt of the affair. His eyes were filled with tears). I spent the night crying, continuously shedding tears, without a moment’s sleep.
    “As revelation was not in the offing, the Prophet consulted `Ali ibn Abi Talib and Usama b. Zayd about divorcing a wife. (Note how she avoids using her own name: Au.). Usama told him, “We do not know except good of her.” As for `Ali, he said, “Messenger of Allah, Allah has placed no restriction on you. There are plenty of other women besides her. In any case, you might inquire her maid. She is sure to know.” So the Prophet (saws) asked Barirah, “Have you ever noticed anything suspicious about `A’isha?” She swore that she knew nothing bad of me except that I would mix the dough and sleep off on it for a goat to enter and devour it off clean. (She also said, “Had she been like what is being attributed to her, surely, Allah would not have kept His Messenger in dark about her." And the people were amazed at her understanding of the religion).
    `A’isha added, when the news reached the man implicated, he exclaimed, “By Allah, I have never uncovered a woman’s shoulder ever in my life.” (He meant, he had never committed illicit sex: Qurtubi). In fact he died a martyr in a battle later. (That happened during the reign of `Umar ibn al-Khattab, in the battle of Armenia in the year 19 A.H.: Qurtubi). Angry at being accused, he struck Hassan with a sword on his head, and Hassan was lucky to have survived, as it only took some skin off the skull.
    “[The Prophet also consulted his wife Zaynab bint Jahash (sister of Hamnah bint Jahash, one of the slanderers) about `A’isha. She replied, “By Allah, I know nothing but good of her.” This, despite the fact that she was jealous of `A’isha]. So the Prophet went up the mimbar and said addressing the people, “People! Who will help me against a man who hurts me by slandering my family while, by Allah, I know nothing but good of her, and have never suspected the man that they are implicating who has in fact never been in (my house) except in my presence.”
    [Probably the Prophet conducted the inquiry for the satisfaction of the people: Au.].
    “At that Sa`d b. Mu`adh got up and said that he would deal with the man for him. He said, ‘If he is of the Aws tribe, I’ll cut off his head, but if he is from another tribe, you suggest as to what shall we do with him.’ At that Sa`d b. `Ubadah got up. He was the leader of Khazraj, a righteous person but affected by tribal chauvinism. He taunted Sa`d b. Mu`adh, ‘By Allah, you can’t, and will never be able to kill him.’ In reply Sa`d b. Mu`adh said, ‘By Allah, we shall surely kill him. You are a hypocrite yourself defending a hypocrite.’ That provoked the two groups Aws and Khazraj to vent anger at each other and came near to exchanging blows while the Messenger stood on the pulpit trying to calm them down. He kept appealing until the voices died down.
    “And I kept weeping the day, unceasingly, without a moment’s sleep until my parents thought my lever will burst up. Then an Ansari woman came in to see me. But she sat there and only wept with me. While we were in that state the Messenger of Allah came in and sat down. A month had passed since the rumors and he had never sat down with me for that period. He recited the invocatory supplication and began to say, ‘`A’isha! Such and such things have been reported to me about you. Now, if you are innocent, Allah will exonerate you. But if you are guilty then seek Allah’s forgiveness and repent to Him, for, when a person admits his guilt and then repents, Allah also relents to him.’ (According to another report, she pointed to the Ansari woman sitting at the door and taunted him, ‘Don’t you feel shy that the woman would remember the things you say now?’).
    [The above sentence was beautifully woman-like of `A’isha: Au.].
    “In any case, those words of the Prophet stopped my tears completely. I had not a trace of them in my eyes anymore. I turned to my father and said, ‘Answer the Messenger of Allah on my behalf.’ He said, ‘I do not know how to answer him.’ So I told my mother, ‘Answer the Messenger of Allah on my behalf.’ She said, ‘I do not know how to answer him.’ So, although I was pretty young and did not know much of the Qur’an, I said, ‘By Allah. I believe you have heard so much of this scandal that it has got planted in your hearts and you have begun to believe in it.’
    [We might remind ourselves that the above sentence is from a teen-ager: Au.].
    “(According to one version, ‘your hearts are drunk up in it’). Now, if I were to say I am innocent – and of course I am – then you will not believe me. But if I admitted – although I am innocent, you will believe me. By Allah, I cannot find any example to give you except that of Prophet Yusuf’s father (she forgot his name) who said, “So goodly patience is most fitting. And Allah’s help is to be sought against what you allege.”’
    “Then I lay down in the bed and turned my face away from them. I felt strongly at that point that Allah would exonerate me. It is another thing that I never dreamt He would send down a revelation in that regard that would be recited for ever. I thought myself too insignificant for that, but rather, it would be that the Prophet would see a dream exonerating me. And by God, the Prophet did not move from where he was sitting, nor had anyone left the house when Allah sent down His revelation. He was overtaken by the state that usually overtook him on such occasions, until drops of pearl-like sweat began to roll down from the heaviness of revelation although it was winter. Then he recovered, wiped the sweat from his forehead, smiled and said, ‘Be of good cheer `A’isha, Allah has exonerated you.’ My mother exhorted me, ‘Rise and go up to him,’ I said, ‘By Allah, I shall not rise and will not go to him, nor shall I thank anyone but Allah the Glorious who sent down the exoneration.’ (She also added, I was pretty angry at that moment and said, ‘I am not going to thank any of you. Aren’t you the ones who wouldn’t believe in me?’). Allah had revealed, ‘Surely, those who brought forward the lie are a band of you .. until the next ten verses.”
    The narration is found in several hadith books. The above version seems to have been pieced together by several reporters and is in Ibn Is-haq (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Some time later, `A’isha and Zaynab contended with each other over their respective virtues. Zaynab said, “I am the one who was given in marriage to the Prophet up in the Heavens.” ‘A’isha said, “I am the one in whose exoneration was revealed in Allah’s Book when Safwan took me up on the camel.” Zaynab asked, “Tell me, what did you say when you were up on his camel?” ‘A’isha replied, “I said (4: 173),

    {حَسْبُنَا اللَّهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَكِيلُ} [آل عمران: 173]

    Zaynab said, “You said the words of the believers.”
    23. That is, those of them who died having not repented (Qrutubi).

    لَوْلَا إِذْ سَمِعْتُمُوهُ ظَنَّ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتُ بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ خَيْرًا وَقَالُوا هَٰذَا إِفْكٌ مُبِينٌ (12)

    24|12| Why was it not that when you heard it, the believing men and women thought good of themselves24 and said, ‘This is an obvious lie?’25

    24. The verse, “Why was it not that when you heard it, the believing men and women think good of themselves?” could be somewhat intriguing to some, especially the words, “think good of themselves.” Ibn Jarir offers rescue: This is because the adherents of Islam are like a single individual. They are one community. Accordingly, when Umm Ayyub told her husband Abu Ayyub, “Have you heard what the people are saying about ‘A’isha?” – he answered, “Indeed, I have. But that is a lie. (Let me ask you), would you have done such a thing O Umm Ayyub?” She answered, “Of course I would never do such a thing.” He remarked, “But ‘A’isha is better than you.”
    Ibn Kathir traces the report in Ahmad.
    25. “And said, ‘This is an obvious lie?’” - that is, there was no need for investigation into a case so obvious. The first reaction should have been to reject it outright as Abu Ayyub did (Ibn Jarir).
    That is because, Ibn Kathir adds, the circumstantial evidence was too strong. The Mother of the believers had come into the (middle of the) camp, riding Safwan’s mount, at noon time, right before the eyes of the beholders. Had there been any foul play of any sort, the two would not have come in receiving the gaze of all and sundry.
    Even an enemy of the Islamic truth Muir is quoted by Majid as having written, “Little remark is needed, regarding the character of `A’isha.. Her life, both before and after must lead us to believe her innocent of the charge.’”

    لَوْلَا جَاءُوا عَلَيْهِ بِأَرْبَعَةِ شُهَدَاءَ ۚ فَإِذْ لَمْ يَأْتُوا بِالشُّهَدَاءِ فَأُولَٰئِكَ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ هُمُ الْكَاذِبُونَ (13)

    24|13| Why did they not bring four witnesses against it? So, when they did not bring the witnesses, then it is they indeed who are liars in the sight of Allah.26

    26. Accordingly, the Prophet ordered Hassan b. Thabit, Hamnah b. Jahsh and Mistah b. Athathah whipped. The reports are in Tirmidhi, Abu Da’ud, Ibn Majah, Ahmad and others but which Tirmidhi thought reached only the Hasan status (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).
    Ibn Ubayy himself was spared because, says Shawkani, his punishment was reserved for the Hereafter as against the above three who gained redemption through their worldly punishment. The Prophet has said,

    إنها كفارة لمن أقيمت عليه

    “(Worldly punishment) is a means of redemption upon whomsoever they are executed.”
    The words of the hadith in Muslim are:

    وَمَنْ أَصَابَ شَيْئًا مِنْ ذَلِكَ فَعُوقِبَ بِهِ فَهُوَ كَفَّارَةٌ لَهُ

    “Whoever of you fell into any of it (i.e. a sin) andis delivered any punishment (hadd) then, that is his redemption” (S. Ibrahim).

    وَلَوْلَا فَضْلُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَتُهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ لَمَسَّكُمْ فِي مَا أَفَضْتُمْ فِيهِ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ (14)

    24|14| And, were it not for Allah’s grace and mercy upon you in this world and the Next, surely a grievous chastisement would have touched you for that into which you plunged.

    إِذْ تَلَقَّوْنَهُ بِأَلْسِنَتِكُمْ وَتَقُولُونَ بِأَفْوَاهِكُمْ مَا لَيْسَ لَكُمْ بِهِ عِلْمٌ وَتَحْسَبُونَهُ هَيِّنًا وَهُوَ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ عَظِيمٌ (15)

    24|15| When you were receiving it on your tongues27 and were speaking with your mouths28 that of which you had no knowledge and reckoned it insignificant, while it was grave in the sight of Allah.29

    27. `A’isha herself read the present-day textual “talaqqawnahu” as “taliqunahu” – and she knew well what was revealed in her connection – meaning, “when you continued to receive (the false story).” However, the consensus is over “talaqqawnahu” (Ibn Jarir, Kashshaf). And the meaning is, you were freely passing it on from tongue to tongue (Kashshaf).
    28. All words come from the tongue, so what’s the meaning of the words “When you received it on your tongues?” The answer is, the slanderers never let their slander cross through to their minds. They took it easy, without thinking about the significance of what they were saying, passing it on as casually as received, from tongue to tongue (Kashshaf, reworded).
    29. A hadith points to the mischief of the tongue. The Prophet (saws) said in a report preserved in the Sahihayn:

    وَإِنَّ الْعَبْدَ لَيَتَكَلَّمُ بِالْكَلِمَةِ مِنْ سَخَطِ اللَّهِ لاَ يُلْقِى لَهَا بَالاً يَهْوِى بِهَا فِى جَهَنَّمَ

    “Verily, a man speaks out a word that angers Allah, while he attaches no importance to it, but he is thrown thereby into the Fire" (Ibn Kathir).

    وَلَوْلَا إِذْ سَمِعْتُمُوهُ قُلْتُمْ مَا يَكُونُ لَنَا أَنْ نَتَكَلَّمَ بِهَٰذَا سُبْحَانَكَ هَٰذَا بُهْتَانٌ عَظِيمٌ (16)

    24|16| Why was it not that when you heard it, you said, ‘It is not proper for us that we should speak of this. Glory to You (our Lord),30 this is a great slander.’

    30. Originally, Subha-naka (Glory to You) was said at every moment when great wonders hidden in Allah’s creation became apparent. Subsequently, with usage, it came to be spelled at anything wonderful or strange thing happening (Zamakhshari).

    يَعِظُكُمُ اللَّهُ أَنْ تَعُودُوا لِمِثْلِهِ أَبَدًا إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ (17)

    24|17| Allah exhorts you that you should ever return to the like thereof, if you are believers.31

    31. The Prophet has added his own emphasis to the Qur’anic prohibition against attacking people’s honor. He said in a hadith of Ahmad,

    لاَ تُؤْذُوا عِبَادَ اللَّهِ وَلاَ تُعَيِّرُوهُمْ وَلاَ تَطْلُبُوا عَوْرَاتِهِمْ فَإِنَّهُ مَنْ طَلَبَ عَوْرَةَ أَخِيهِ الْمُسْلِمِ طَلَبَ اللَّهُ عَوْرَتَهُ حَتَّى يَفْضَحَهُ فِى بَيْتِهِ

    “Do not cause pain to Allah’s slaves nor taunt them. And do not seek to know their hidden affairs. For, he who sought to know the hidden affairs of his brother Muslim, has Allah after his hidden affairs, until He humiliates him in his own house” (Ibn Kathir).
    32. Majid comments: “The word ‘Al-Fahishah’ in this context does not signify the act of lewdness but the dissemination of scandals and gossip, the wide-spread social vice – the word of scandal repeated and reiterated at hundreds of (places).”
    Mawdudi however sees that the implication can be expanded. He writes: “The words used in the verse embrace all the various forms that might be used to spread moral corruption and lewd behavior including those means employed to awaken sexual passion, be they poetry, song, fiction, picture, plays and drama.”

    وَيُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمُ الْآيَاتِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ (18)

    24|18| And Allah makes clear to you the verses, and Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُحِبُّونَ أَنْ تَشِيعَ الْفَاحِشَةُ فِي الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ (19)

    24|19| Surely those who love that indecency32 should spread among the believers, shall have a painful chastisement in this world and the Next.33 Allah knows and you know not.

    33. That is, if they continued living and died unrepentant (Qurtubi).
    Asad adds: “The Qur’anic warning against slander and, by obvious implication, against any attempt at seeking out other people’s faults finds a clear echo in several well-authenticated sayings of the Prophet: ‘Beware of all guesswork [about one another], for, behold, all [such] guesswork is most deceptive (akdhab al-hadith); and do not spy upon one another, and do not try to bare [other people’s] failings’ (Muwatta’).”

    وَلَوْلَا فَضْلُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَتُهُ وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ رَءُوفٌ رَحِيمٌ (20)

    24|20| And, but for the grace of Allah upon you and His mercy, and that Allah is All-clement, All-Merciful, (you were lost).

    يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَتَّبِعُوا خُطُوَاتِ الشَّيْطَانِ ۚ وَمَنْ يَتَّبِعْ خُطُوَاتِ الشَّيْطَانِ فَإِنَّهُ يَأْمُرُ بِالْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنْكَرِ ۚ وَلَوْلَا فَضْلُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَتُهُ مَا زَكَىٰ مِنْكُمْ مِنْ أَحَدٍ أَبَدًا وَلَٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ يُزَكِّي مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۗ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ (21)

    24|21| Believers! Follow not Shaytan’s footsteps. Whoever follows the footsteps of Shaytan (should know that) verily he (only) enjoins indecency and the reprehensible. And, were it not for Allah’s grace upon you and His mercy, not one of you would have ever purified (himself),34 but rather Allah purifies whom He will, and Allah is All-hearing, All-knowing.

    34. That is, as Ibn `Abbas understood, none of you would have, all by himself, been led to any good nor saved from any harm, without Allah showing the way (Ibn Jarir).
    Imam Razi explains that the term “zaki” is applicable to a person who has obtained a high degree of Allah’s Pleasure (rida). Hence one says,

    زكى الزرع

    meaning “the crop has attained its fullest growth.”

    وَلَا يَأْتَلِ أُولُو الْفَضْلِ مِنْكُمْ وَالسَّعَةِ أَنْ يُؤْتُوا أُولِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَالْمُهَاجِرِينَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ۖ وَلْيَعْفُوا وَلْيَصْفَحُوا ۗ أَلَا تُحِبُّونَ أَنْ يَغْفِرَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (22)

    24|22| And let not those of virtue35 among you and wealth swear against expending on the kin, the poor, and the emigrants in Allah’s cause.36 They ought to pardon and overlook. Do you not wish that that Allah should forgive you?37 And Allah is All-forgiving, All-kind.

    35. Imam Razi points out (and Alusi seems to agree) that the term “fadl” of “ulu al-fadl” can allude either to this worldly “fadl” or the next-worldly. If we assume that it refers to this worldly “fadl” then, it cannot be rendered as “wealth” or “bounty” because that is already mentioned in “sa`ah” (abundance or wealth). Therefore, it can only be understood as spiritual “grace” or “virtue” of this and the next world. This description fitted well Abu Bakr who was a person of spiritual virtue far more excellent than any other after the Prophet.
    36. This was revealed in reference to Abu Bakr swearing over Mistah’s part in the slander on `A’isha. He used to support him materially because he was a cousin to him through his aunt, and because he was a poor immigrant, and one who had participated in the battle of Badr. He swore that he would no more support him financially after the incident. Allah (swt) revealed this verse. Dahhak has said that there were a few others also, from among the Ansar, who had sworn like Abu Bakr (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Ibn Kathir). But the second opinion – about the Ansar – does not seem very sound (Qurtubi).
    37. When Abu Bakr heard of this revelation he said, “Indeed, I wish to be forgiven” (Ibn Jarir).
    The Prophet expressed the substance of this verse in his words by saying,

    من لايرَحم لا يرُحم

    “He who doesn’t show mercy, is not shown mercy” (Qurtubi).

    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَرْمُونَ الْمُحْصَنَاتِ الْغَافِلَاتِ الْمُؤْمِنَاتِ لُعِنُوا فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ (23)

    24|23| Surely those who slander chaste,38 unwary,39 believing women are cursed in this world and the Next and for them (awaits) a great punishment.40

    38. The translation of “muhsanat” as chaste has Ibn Jarir’s authority behind it.
    39. Morally bankrupt people’s languages (in whose culture father mates with daughter, brother marries sister, priest with priest), cannot have words in current usage for expressing such qualities as they deem out of date: chastity, bashfulness, personal purity, etc. Zamakhshari’s definition for the textual “ghafilat” therefore, could perhaps give some sense to those who do not have a single equivalent for “ghafilat.” He defines the term as …but first in Arabic:

    السليمات الصدور ، النقيات القلوب ، اللاتي ليس فيهن دهاء ، ولا مكر ، لأنهنّ لم يجربن الأمور ولم يرزن الأحوال ، فلا يفطنّ لما تفطن له المجربات العرافات - الكشاف

    We can now attempt a somewhat free translation: "Ghafilat are those women whose breasts are preserved in primordial purity, and hearts clean. Those, who are free of guile and cunning, for they have not yet experienced (some) things, and have not yet tasted (some) affairs; so that, they are not yet conscious of matters that the experienced and the seasoned ones are conscious of."
    40. The verse could be applicable to `Abdullah ibn Ubayy and his compatriots who never repented (Alusi and others).
    The Prophet added his own emphasis counting slander of chaste women as one of the great seven destroyers. The others being, as in a report of the Sahihayn:

    الشِّرْكُ بِاللَّهِ ، وَالسِّحْرُ ، وَقَتْلُ النَّفْسِ الَّتِى حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ إِلاَّ بِالْحَقِّ ، وَأَكْلُ الرِّبَا ، وَأَكْلُ مَالِ الْيَتِيمِ ، وَالتَّوَلِّى يَوْمَ الزَّحْفِ ، وَقَذْفُ الْمُحْصَنَاتِ الْمُؤْمِنَاتِ الْغَافِلاَتِ

    Ascribing partners unto Allah, magic, killing an innocent soul, devouring usury, devouring orphans’ property, running away from the battle-field, and slandering chaste believing women (Ibn Kathir).

    يَوْمَ تَشْهَدُ عَلَيْهِمْ أَلْسِنَتُهُمْ وَأَيْدِيهِمْ وَأَرْجُلُهُمْ بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (24)

    24|24| The Day when their tongues, their hands and their feet will testify against them as to what they were doing.

    يَوْمَئِذٍ يُوَفِّيهِمُ اللَّهُ دِينَهُمُ الْحَقَّ وَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْحَقُّ الْمُبِينُ (25)

    24|25| That day will Allah pay them in full their just due41 and they will know that Allah, He is the Manifest Truth.42

    41. The rendering of “din” as “just due” tries to be close to the understanding of Ibn `Abbas as in Tabari. He said “dinahum” means “hisabahum.”
    42. This is the meaning of “Al-Mubin” that Ibn Jarir prefers as correct. However, “One Who Manifests” is another possible meaning. Zamakhshari is also of the same opinion.
    It might also be made note of, adds Zamakhshari, how Allah (swt) dealt with the slander of `A’isha in His revelation. He stated it briefly and then expanded on it, He emphasized on it and then repeated it, and, came with words of threat that He used for the Associaters alone in other parts of the Qur’an. Anyone wishing to know the position of honor that the Prophet (saws) occupied with Allah, might read the passage dealing with `A’isha’s slander. If Allah dealt with it so seriously, it was because `A’isha was his wife.

    الْخَبِيثَاتُ لِلْخَبِيثِينَ وَالْخَبِيثُونَ لِلْخَبِيثَاتِ ۖ وَالطَّيِّبَاتُ لِلطَّيِّبِينَ وَالطَّيِّبُونَ لِلطَّيِّبَاتِ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ مُبَرَّءُونَ مِمَّا يَقُولُونَ ۖ لَهُمْ مَغْفِرَةٌ وَرِزْقٌ كَرِيمٌ (26)

    24|26| Evil (words) are for evil men, and evil men are for evil (words); and good (words) are for pure men and pure men are for good (words).43 They are innocent of what they (the evil ones) say.44 Theirs shall be forgiveness and a provision honorable.45

    43. A literal translation should be: Evil (women) are for evil (men) …” but this is not how the great majority of the earliest scholars have understood it.
    But rather, the translation as it is now, is how Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Ibn Nujayh, Dahhak, Qatadah, Sa`id b. Jubayr and many others of the early scholars have understood. That is, evil words are for evil men; to them they suit most. Whereas, good men are innocent of them. On the contrary, good words are for good men. To them they suit most.
    Ibn Jarir also understands this ayah in this manner, yet reports that Zayd b. Aslam thought they meant that good women are for good men .. to the end.
    Nuhhas has said that this is the best that has been said about the verse, although he is not against Zayd’s interpretation altogether (Qurtubi).
    44. That is, the good ones are quit of what the words the evil ones use (Ibn Jarir).
    45. Most commentators agree that the first application of the verse was to `A’isha, a lady of great virtues. The Prophet (saws) said about her:

    فَضْلُ عَائِشَةَ عَلَى النِّسَاءِ كَفَضْلِ الثَّرِيدِ عَلَى سَائِرِ الطَّعَامِ

    “`A’isha’s superiority over other women is like that of mutton-pudding over other dishes” (Alusi). She said about herself, “I have been given preference over others in several things: (a) An angel brought down my photo to the Prophet (before marriage, to say that ‘this is chosen to be your wife’), (b) I was the only virgin the Prophet married, (c) I held the unique position that revelations came to the Prophet while I was with him under the same blanket, (d) my exoneration was sent down from the heavens, (e) the Prophet died in my house, (f) he was buried in my house, (g) I was created pure in the house of the pure, (h) I was promised forgiveness and an honorable provision (Zamakhshari, Alusi, Shafi` and others).
    It might be noticed in the above that the woman inside `A’isha makes an important point of being a virgin when the Prophet married her. The Prophet himself however, hardly ever expressed any such sentiment (Au.).

    يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَدْخُلُوا بُيُوتًا غَيْرَ بُيُوتِكُمْ حَتَّىٰ تَسْتَأْنِسُوا وَتُسَلِّمُوا عَلَىٰ أَهْلِهَا ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ (27)

    24|27| Believers! Do not enter houses other than your own houses until you have ascertained welcome46 and have saluted their occupants. That is better for you, haply you will heed.

    46. Ibn `Abbas was quite sure that the original revelation was “ista’dhinu” (seek permission) which the scribe wrote as “ista’nisu” (seek familiarity or friendliness). Some reports say that that is how it was written in Ibn Mas`ud’s copy of the Qur’an (Ibn Jarir). Nonetheless, the usage of the word “ista’nasa” is not any new in Arabic language. We might recall that when ‘Umar entered upon the Prophet in his upper chamber when he had sworn that he would not see his wives for a month, he used the same word “asta’nis” (lit., “should I attempt pleasantry?: Au.) - Qurtubi.
    The word has also been used in the Qur’an in Surah al-Ahzab, verse 53, which says,

    {فَإِذَا طَعِمْتُمْ فَانْتَشِرُوا وَلَا مُسْتَأْنِسِينَ لِحَدِيثٍ إِ} [الأحزاب: 53]

    “When you have finished eating, disperse, without seeking conversation” (Razi).
    The attribution therefore, of the opinion above to Ibn `Abbas and others is incorrect (Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi). In fact, writes Shanqiti, all the Uthmani copies of the Qur’an have it written as “ista’nisu.” Alusi however does not believe the attribution is incorrect and sets about explaining what Ibn `Abbas could have meant.
    However, Mujahid and Ibn Zayd thought it was “ista’nisu” alone, meaning, “make yourselves familiar.” That is, clear your throat, and make some sort of noise to let the occupants know that someone is at the door.
    In any case, whether this or that, it is desirable that one seeks the permission of the occupants before entering, even if it happens to be one’s mother inside. The following is in Muwatta':

    سَأَلَهُ رَجُلٌ فَقَالَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَسْتَأْذِنُ عَلَى أُمِّى فَقَالَ « نَعَمْ ». قَالَ الرَّجُلُ إِنِّى مَعَهَا فِى الْبَيْتِ. فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- « اسْتَأْذِنْ عَلَيْهَا ». فَقَالَ الرَّجُلُ إِنِّى خَادِمُهَا. فَقَالَ لَهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- « اسْتَأْذِنْ عَلَيْهَا أَتُحِبُّ أَنْ تَرَاهَا عُرْيَانَةً ». قَالَ لاَ. قَالَ: فَاسْتَأْذِنْ عَلَيْهَا } موطأ مالك 5/ 487{

    Someone asked the Prophet (saws) whether he should seek permission even if it is his mother? He answered, “Yes.” He said, "She is living with me in the house." He told him, "Seek her permission." The man said, "I am her attendant." The Prophet answered, “Seek her permission. Do you wish to see her naked?” The man said, “No.” He said, “Then better seek her leave.”
    And once someone said at the Prophet’s door,

    حَدَّثَنَا رَجُلٌ مِنْ بَنِى عَامِرٍ أَنَّهُ اسْتَأْذَنَ عَلَى النَّبِىِّ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- وَهُوَ فِى بَيْتٍ فَقَالَ أَلِجُ فَقَالَ النَّبِىُّ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- لِخَادِمِهِ « اخْرُجْ إِلَى هَذَا فَعَلِّمْهُ الاِسْتِئْذَانَ فَقُلْ لَهُ قُلِ السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ أَأَدْخُلُ ». فَسَمِعَهُ الرَّجُلُ فَقَالَ السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ أَأَدْخُلُ فَأَذِنَ لَهُ النَّبِىُّ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- فَدَخَلَ.


    “Shall I come in?” He said to his attendant, “Go out to this man and teach him the manner of entering (a home). Tell him to say, ‘Al-salamu alaykum’ and then ask, ‘Shall I enter?’” The man at the door heard and said, 'Al-salamu alaykum, shall I enter?' The Prophet allowed him and then the man entered."
    (The report is in Abu Da’ud, Ahmad and other books and is of considerable strength: S. Ibrahim).
    Accordingly, it is reported of Ibn Mas`ud that he would clear his throat or make some noise at the door of his own house for the occupants to know he was coming in (Ibn Jarir, Zamakshari, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Visiting Manners
    Permission to enter might be sought three times. A report is preserved in the Sahihayn which says that Abu Musa sought entry into `Umar’s gathering three times and turned back finding no response. In the meanwhile `Umar became conscious of the voice and sent someone after him, but he was gone. When he showed up again `Umar asked him why had he returned earlier? Abu Musa told him that he had followed the Prophet’s instruction: thrice you seek to be admitted but if there is no response you may return. `Umar threatened him with stripes if he did not produce witnesses. So Abu Musa went to a group of Ansar and asked them if anyone had also heard it from the Prophet. They said, “The youngest of us will help you out,” and sent Abu Sa`id al-Khudri with him. He testified before `Umar that the Prophet (saws) indeed had said such a thing. `Umar remarked, “Nothing but trading led me to miss this one” (Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    A report of Abu Da’ud, quite credible, says that once the Prophet visited Sa`d b. `Ubadah. He said “Al-salamu alaykum” at the door, three times. Every time he said that, Sa`d replied in a low-pitched voice which the Prophet did not hear and so he returned. Sa`d ran after him and explained that he wished to hear his Salam several times and hence replied in low tones. Sa`d offered him a bath and the Prophet bathed himself. Then he offered him some food that had food coloring in it. Finished, the Prophet supplicated in words, “O Allah, send Your peace and mercy on the household of Sa`d b. `Ubadah.” When he wished to depart, Sa`d offered him his donkey and asked Qays to accompany him. The Prophet told Qays to also mount. But he refused. So he told him, “Either mount, or go back.” Qays preferred to go back (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    According to another report in Abu Da’ud, though of unknown reliability,

    كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- إِذَا أَتَى بَابَ قَوْمٍ لَمْ يَسْتَقْبِلِ الْبَابَ مِنْ تِلْقَاءِ وَجْهِهِ وَلَكِنْ مِنْ رُكْنِهِ الأَيْمَنِ أَوِ الأَيْسَرِ وَيَقُولُ: السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمُ السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ.

    “When the Prophet visited someone, he did not stand right in front of the door, but rather, either on the right side or lefts side of it and say, ‘Al-salamu alaykum, al-salamu alaykum’” (Ibn Kathir).
    Visiting manners also demand that one might not peep into the house one is visiting. The Prophet (saws) said in a hadith of the Sahihayn:

    فإنما الاستئذان من النظر

    “Permission has been legislated for the sake of the sight.” According to a report in the Sahihayn, the Prophet said that,

    لو اطَّلَعَ فِى بَيْتِكَ أَحَدٌ وَلَمْ تَأْذَنْ لَهُ ، خَذَفْتَهُ بِحَصَاةٍ فَفَقَأْتَ عَيْنَهُ ، مَا كَانَ عَلَيْكَ مِنْ جُنَاحٍ

    if you struck a visitor peeping into your house with a stone and it blinded him, no indemnity will be required of you (Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Bukhari, Abu Da’ud and Ahmad have a report from Jabir who said,

    أتيتُ النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم في دَين كان على أبي، فدققت الباب، فقال: "من ذا"؟ قلت: أنا. قال: "أنا، أنا" كأنه كرهه

    “I went to the Prophet (for an errand).” I knocked at the door. He asked, ‘Who is it?’ I answered, ‘It’s me.’ He asked, ‘Me, me? Who is me?’ – as if he did not like the visitor’s words (Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    One might also knock at the door; but not too noisily. Anas b. Malik reports that they used to knock at the Prophet’s doors with their nails (Qurtubi).

    فَإِنْ لَمْ تَجِدُوا فِيهَا أَحَدًا فَلَا تَدْخُلُوهَا حَتَّىٰ يُؤْذَنَ لَكُمْ ۖ وَإِنْ قِيلَ لَكُمُ ارْجِعُوا فَارْجِعُوا ۖ هُوَ أَزْكَىٰ لَكُمْ ۚ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ عَلِيمٌ (28)

    24|28| But if you find not anyone therein, then do not enter into them until you are permitted.47 And if you are told, ‘return,’ then return.48 That is purer for you; and Allah is Knowing of what you do.

    47. This refers to houses without their occupants within. One’s entry into them would be illegal. It might also be extended to houses where the master of the house is absent. One might not enter into them if invited in by a child or a house servant unless they have specific instruction from the master of the house. The words, “if you do not find anyone” could be saying, “if you do not find anyone (of authority) to allow you in” (Alusi).
    48. Somehow, throughout the ages, Muslims have not been able to say “go back” to anyone at the door. Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir report from one of the emigrants, “All my life I never had the opportunity to hear from anyone, ‘return,’ so that I could return, a bit downcast.”
    Their attitude to welcome a guest, at whatever time he may come, has got better of their awareness to conserve time. Indian scholars say that a scholar should welcome a man looking for consultancy at any odd hour, even if it is wee hours of the night (Au.).

    لَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَنْ تَدْخُلُوا بُيُوتًا غَيْرَ مَسْكُونَةٍ فِيهَا مَتَاعٌ لَكُمْ ۚ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا تُبْدُونَ وَمَا تَكْتُمُونَ (29)

    24|29| There is no blame upon you that you should enter uninhabited houses,49 in which are your goods. And Allah knows what you reveal and what you conceal.

    49. Such as store houses, and, by implication, cafeterias and other public places of unobstructed visit.
    Ibn Abi Hatim reports that it was first Abu Bakr who asked the Prophet about such places as store-rooms, stock-yards, inns, and other public places where there is no one to seek permission from. In response Allah revealed this verse (Alusi and others).

    قُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا فُرُوجَهُمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَزْكَىٰ لَهُمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ (30)

    24|30| Say to the believers that they lower their gazes50 and guard their private parts.51 That is purer for them. Surely, Allah is Aware of what they do.

    50. According to the majority the min of the textual “min absarihim” has been declared as “tab`idiyyah” – meaning, “lower some of your gazes,” i.e., those that are cast at the forbidden. A minor opinion is that the min here is “za’idah” such as in, “ma min ilahin ghayruhu;” while a few others have treated it as a “silah” (conjunctive) - Razi.
    Our translation at this point is more to attain fluency rather than accuracy (Au.).
    Ibn `Abbas explained that the instruction is to lower the gaze from every unsightly thing. Obviously, it is not possible to walk about with the sights fixed to the ground. The meaning is, do not look at things unlawful to look at (Ibn Jarir).
    The first fall of the sight on an undesirable thing is forgiven, but, as a hadith of Muslim asserts, it must be taken off quickly. In this vein we might quote a tradition preserved in the Sahihayn. The Prophet said,

    إِيَّاكُمْ وَالْجُلُوسَ عَلَى الطُّرُقَاتِ. فَقَالُوا مَا لَنَا بُدٌّ ، إِنَّمَا هِىَ مَجَالِسُنَا نَتَحَدَّثُ فِيهَا . قَالَ « فَإِذَا أَبَيْتُمْ إِلاَّ الْمَجَالِسَ فَأَعْطُوا الطَّرِيقَ حَقَّهَا » قَالُوا وَمَا حَقُّ الطَّرِيقِ قَالَ: غَضُّ الْبَصَرِ ، وَكَفُّ الأَذَى ، وَرَدُّ السَّلاَمِ ، وَأَمْرٌ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ ، وَنَهْىٌ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ.

    “Be you warned of sitting at the roadsides.” They protested, “But we need to get together and chat.” He said, “If you do not wish to do without those assemblies, then give the roadside its due.” They asked, “And what’s its due?” He replied, “Lower your gaze, hold back any harm (to passers by), return salutations, enjoin the virtuous and prohibit the wrong.”
    Accordingly, when during a campaign, Ghazwan was staring at a girl with uncovered face, Abu Musa Ash`ari hit so hard on his eye that it got swollen. “You are looking at something that can only harm you and not benefit you.” Now, Ghazwan was a sensitive man. It is reported that he was not seen smiling thereafter until his death. In fact, Sha`bi has said – although his times were better than ours - one might not stare hard and long at his mother, sister or daughter (Qurtubi).
    We have seen how free license has led girls in Western households to fear their own fathers and other close relatives (Au.).
    According to a hadith in Bukhari, Muslim and others the Prophet (saws) said about one’s wandering eye:

    إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَتَبَ عَلَى ابْنِ آدَمَ حَظَّهُ مِنَ الزِّنَا ، أَدْرَكَ ذَلِكَ لاَ مَحَالَةَ ، فَزِنَا الْعَيْنِ النَّظَرُ ، وَزِنَا اللِّسَانِ الْمَنْطِقُ ، وَالنَّفْسُ تَمَنَّى وَتَشْتَهِى ، وَالْفَرْجُ يُصَدِّقُ ذَلِكَ كُلَّهُ وَيُكَذِّبُهُ

    “Allah has written on Adam’s son his share of adultery which he commits inevitably. The adultery of the eyes is the sight (that gazes at the forbidden), the adultery of the tongue is to talk, the inner self wishes and desires and the private parts testify all these or deny them.”


    لا تُتبع النظرة النظرة فإنما لك الأُولى وليست لك الثانية

    It has been said about guarding one’s gaze against falling on undesirable things that as a reward Allah (swt) bestows Light to his eye and (wisdom) flows through his heart. Hence many scholars have discouraged men from staring at (handsome) boys. In fact, the Sufiya have written against it in very strong terms (Ibn Kathir).‏
    51. That is, not uncover their `awrah (parts of body to be necessarily covered). A hadith in Tirmidhi, (which is declared Hasan and translated freely here: Au.), says that the Prophet was asked about one’s `awrah. He answered,

    "احْفَظْ عَلَيْكَ عَوْرَتَكَ إِلا مِنْ زَوْجِكَ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ يَمِينُكَ"، قُلْتُ: فَإِذَا كَانَ بَعْضًا فِي بَعْضٍ؟، قَالَ:"فَإِنِ اسْتَطَعْتَ أَنْ لا يَرَى عَوْرَتَكَ أَحَدٌ فَافْعَلْ"، قُلْتُ: أَرَأَيْتَ إِذَا كَانَ أَحَدُنَا جَالِسًا وَحْدَهُ؟، قَالَ:"اللَّهُ أَحَقُّ أَنْ يُسْتَحْيَى مِنْهُ".
    “Guard your `awrah save from your wife or what your rights hands own.” He was asked, “Man to man?” He replied, “Try and see to it that he does not see your `awrah.” He was asked, “What about when a man is alone?” He answered, “Allah is more deserving that you should be shy of Him.”
    `A’isha was asked about her relationship with the Prophet when in private. She said,

    ما رأيت ذلك منه ، ولا رأى ذلك مني .

    “He did not see of me and I did not see of him.”
    Nevertheless, scholars have allowed a man and wife to see each other’s private parts (Qurtubi); but not the anus (Au.).

    وَقُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا ۖ وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَىٰ جُيُوبِهِنَّ ۖ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَائِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَائِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي أَخَوَاتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسَائِهِنَّ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُنَّ أَوِ التَّابِعِينَ غَيْرِ أُولِي الْإِرْبَةِ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ أَوِ الطِّفْلِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يَظْهَرُوا عَلَىٰ عَوْرَاتِ النِّسَاءِ ۖ وَلَا يَضْرِبْنَ بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِيُعْلَمَ مَا يُخْفِينَ مِنْ زِينَتِهِنَّ ۚ وَتُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا أَيُّهَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ (31)

    24|31| And say to the believing women that they lower their gazes52 and guard their private parts53 and not reveal their adornments except for what (ordinarily) appears thereof,54 and (that) they draw their veils over their bosoms,55 and reveal not their adornments except to their husbands,56 or their fathers,57 or their husbands’ fathers, or their sons, or their husbands’ sons, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women,58 or those their right hands own, or male attendants free of desire,59 or children who have no knowledge of women’s hidden parts, and that they should not strike with their feet in order to draw attention to what they conceal of their adornment.60 And turn to Allah, all of you, O believers, haply that you will prosper.61

    52. The preferred opinion about women looking at non-closely-related men (ghayr mahram) is that it is disallowed for them to look at them with carnal desires, but allowed if the look is not carnal. This is supported by the hadith about Ibn Umm Maktum entering upon the Prophet and he asking Umm Salamah and Maymuna (his two wives) to move away. They said, “But he is blind who can neither see us nor recognize us?” He replied, “But, are you two also blind?” Tirmidhi rated this hadith hasan Sahih. As for women allowed to look at men’s faces without carnal desire, that is supported by the report preserved in the Sahihayn that a group of Abyssinian circus men were allowed to perform in the yard of the mosque and the Prophet (saws) allowed `A’isha to look at them from behind him (Ibn Kathir).
    53. Abu al-`Aliyyah has said that every "guard their private parts of the Qur'an alludes to 'safeguarding against illicit sex,' except for this instance where it means to say, 'let no one see the private parts' (Ibn Kathir).
    54. (The exact implication of the textual word “zeenah” [adornment] has been widely disputed). But there is no difference in opinion that by “ornaments” the allusion actually is to the organs of ornament (Shafi` from Alusi).
    Ibn Jarir writes: Ibn Mas`ud is widely reported to have said that of adornments there are two kinds: the apparent and the non-apparent or the visible and the invisible. The allusion here is to the apparent adornment. It is applicable to clothes. As for what is non-apparent, it is bangles, anklets, necklaces etc. Hasan and Ibrahim were also of the same opinion. Abu Is-haq substantiated this opinion with another verse wherein the word “zeenah” is used in the same sense (7-31):

    {يَا بَنِي آَدَمَ خُذُوا زِينَتَكُمْ عِنْدَ كُلِّ مَسْجِدٍ} [الأعراف: 31]

    “Adam's children! Put on your (best) attires at every Prayer.”
    Ibn `Abbas on the other hand believed that the apparent adornment applies to the jewelry in public, and the face in the privacy of homes. Sa`id ibn Jubayr said the allusion is to palms and face (without specifying whether in public or private). Dahhak, and Awza`i held the same opinion.
    A third opinion, that of Hasan, is that the allusion by the textual “zeenah” is both to the clothes as well as the face. “My own opinion,” writes Ibn Jarir, “is that the allusion is to the face and hands.”
    Ibn Khuwayzmandad was of the opinion that if a woman is beautiful she ought to cover her face and hands in public – a rule that does not apply to old, or ugly looking women (Qurtubi).
    55. The textual word is the plural of “jayb” which is for pocket which used to be on the breast in earlier times, and even during our own times both in Spain as well as in Egypt. In fact Bukhari has a chapter-heading which says, “Shirt pocket on the breast.” A hadith (of the Sahihayn: Au.) which gives examples of a miser and a charitable person, implies that the Prophet’s own two pockets were on the breast (Qurtubi).
    `A’isha is reported to have praised Ansari women who, when they heard of this revelation, tore their cloaks to cover themselves up thoroughly with one half of the torn cloaks (Ibn Jarir). The report is in Bukhari (Ibn Kathir).
    56. The “zeenah” of this occurrence was explained by Ibn Mas`ud as meaning, earrings, necklace, etc. Ibn `Abbas however added that apart from earrings, necklace, bangles, they should not show anything else of their ankles, neck or hair to anyone apart from their husbands and others mentioned here (Ibn Jarir).
    57. A common rule applicable to all the categories of the verse is that progenies below and progenitors above are included by default. Further, maternal or paternal uncles have not been mentioned because they are, in reference to these commandments, like their sons who have also not been mentioned. These are all the mahaarim whom a woman can never marry (Qurtubi).
    58. That is, Muslim women. Non-Muslim women should not see Muslim women’s adornments as stated above, unless they happen to be their slave-girls. Hence `Umar ibn al-Khattab wrote to Abu `Ubaydah (the Syrian governor), “I have been told that Muslim women enter into public bathrooms along with those of the People of the Book. Prevent them from that, otherwise they will (get used to) going in (freely)” - Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir.
    As for the oft-quoted hadith by those contentious of "niqab" viz.,

    عَنْ عَائِشَةَ رضى الله عنها أَنَّ أَسْمَاءَ بِنْتَ أَبِى بَكْرٍ دَخَلَتْ عَلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- وَعَلَيْهَا ثِيَابٌ رِقَاقٌ فَأَعْرَضَ عَنْهَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- وَقَالَ « يَا أَسْمَاءُ إِنَّ الْمَرْأَةَ إِذَا بَلَغَتِ الْمَحِيضَ لَمْ تَصْلُحْ أَنْ يُرَى مِنْهَا إِلاَّ هَذَا وَهَذَا ». وَأَشَارَ إِلَى وَجْهِهِ وَكَفَّيْهِ. قَالَ أَبُو دَاوُدَ هَذَا مُرْسَلٌ

    `A'isha says that Asma' bint Abi Bakr entered upon the Messenger of Allah clad in thin clothes. The Prophet told her: "O Asma', when a woman attains puberty, it does not behoove her that she should expose anything except this and this," .. pointing to his face and the two palms.
    Well, this hadith cannot be used as evidence because Abu Da'ud has himself declared it weak.
    59. Ibn `Abbas and several of the early commentators have explained “ghayru uli al-irbah min al-rijal” as those men who are not in the right state of mind and hence have no desire whatsoever for women and women have no desire for them (Ibn Jarir). In Majid’s words, “ghayru uli al-irbah signifies both ‘wanting in intelligence’ as well as ‘wanting in sexual desire.’”
    Muslim women could display their earrings, necklaces and bangles, but, as for their anklets, neck or hair, that they should refrain from displaying to anyone except their husbands and others named herewith. However, although hermaphrodites are naturally included, but, if they have a wicked look, they might also not be allowed free access to women’s quarters (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).
    Hence we have reports in Hadith books against such of them. One of them, in (Bukhari and) Muslim, has Umm Salama reporting that she had a eunuch (as a slave) in her house whom they used to consider one of the “ghayr irbah” (of the Qur’an). Allah’s Messenger was once in the house when he (the eunuch) said to Umm Salama’s brother `Abdullah b. Abu Umayyah:

    إنْ فَتَحَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمُ الطَّائِفَ غَدًا أَدُلُّكَ عَلَى ابْنَةِ غَيْلاَنَ ، فَإِنَّهَا تُقْبِلُ بِأَرْبَعٍ وَتُدْبِرُ بِثَمَانٍ . فَقَالَ النَّبِىُّ - صلى الله عليه وسلم - « لاَ يَدْخُلَنَّ هَذَا عَلَيْكُنَّ (صحيح البخارى)

    “If Allah grants you victory at Ta’if tomorrow, I will show you the daughter of Ghaylan, for she moves forward in fours and backward in eights.” Allah’s Messenger heard this and said: “Do not allow this man to enter upon you again” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    (The Prophet has also prohibited that men be put into test through description of another woman to them in a way it provokes their carnal self). He said,

    لاَ تُبَاشِرِ الْمَرْأَةُ الْمَرْأَةَ فَتَنْعَتَهَا لِزَوْجِهَا ، كَأَنَّهُ يَنْظُرُ إِلَيْهَا (صحيح البخارى)

    "Let not a woman describe to her husband another woman, as if he sees her."
    60. That is, they should not strike their feet adorned with anklets on the ground in order to draw attention to themselves (Ibn Jarir and others).
    Also included in the prohibition is women using strong perfumes. The Prophet said, in a report of Tirmidhi declared Hasan Sahih,

    كُلُّ عَيْنٍ زَانِيَةٌ وَالْمَرْأَةُ إِذَا اسْتَعْطَرَتْ فَمَرَّتْ بِالْمَجْلِسِ فَهِىَ كَذَا وَكَذَا يَعْنِى زَانِيَةً - قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ. (سنن الترمذى)

    “Every eye is an adulterer. And when a woman perfumes herself and then passes by an assembly (of men), she is so and so,” meaning, she is an adulteress.
    (Then there is a hadith that warns of risks in interactions within the homes with non-mahrams). The Prophet said:

    "إِيَّاكُمْ وَالدُّخُولَ عَلَى النِّسَاءِ" فَقَالَ رَجُلٌ مِنَ الأَنْصَارِ: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ، أَرَأَيْتَ الْحَمْوَ؟ قَالَ: "الْحَمْوُ الْمَوْتُ".

    "Beware of entering upon women." One of the Ansar asked, "Messenger of Allah, what about a brother-in-law?" He answered, "A brother-in-law is death."
    (Ibn Kathir).
    Imam Razi points out that far from displaying their “zeenah,” Muslim women are being instructed not even to draw attention to them. Based on this, the jurists have drawn the conclusion that a woman should not raise her voice, for that will draw attention to her. A woman’s voice is more charming than her adornments and this is the reason why it is not allowed for women to say the Adhan.
    61. Makki has said that there is no other verse in the Qur’an which has more pronouns than this one, which has in all twenty-five of them (Qurtubi). The lower in order is verse 228 of Al-Baqarah. Both deal with women and both carry alliteration effects (Au.).
    Fiqh Points:
    The following are from Imam Razi

    • Of `Awraat there are four kinds: man to man, woman to woman, woman to man, and man to woman.
    • Man to man: It is not allowable for a man to expose to another man anything of his body between the navel and the knees, both included.
    • Woman to woman: The same as above, i.e., it is not allowable for a woman to expose anything of her body to another woman anything between the navel and the knees.
    • Woman to man: Of this category there can be various situations. A woman might not expose anything of her body to a non-mahram except the face and the two hands. On the other hand, it is not allowed for a man to look at a woman’s face unless there is a specific need, such as, e.g., medical examination, identification, or intention to marry, etc. A second look is disallowed.
    • A slave-girl owned by a man is like his wife. But if she is partly owned, (i.e., a joint owner with another person), or she is under contract of freedom (mukaatabah), or kept as mortgage, or a pagan, or married (to someone, slave or free), then, the most she can display are those parts of the body that are visible during work, without exposing which she can do no work.
    • As regards a male slave owned by a woman, there is difference in opinion. Some say he might see her zeenah, but other jurists have said no. There is a report in Abu Da’ud, Ahmad, Ibn Marduwayh and Bayhaqi (and is trustworthy: S. Ibrahim) which says that the Prophet (saws) went to Fatimah with a male slave he had with him as a gift to her. Fatimah had a shroud too short with which if she covered her head, it would not cover her feet, and if she covered her feet, the head would remain out. The Prophet remarked, “You do not have to worry since (in front of you) it is either your father or your slave.” But, Alusi, adds, the slave in question could well have been a boy since the term the Prophet used was “ghulam.”
    • Man to woman: If the woman is not his wife, then his `awrah against her is his `awrah against men: from the navel to the knee. But if he is her husband or Lord (in the technical sense) then there is no `awrah.
    • It is also not advisable to be naked when alone. The Prophet said when asked, “Your Lord is more deserving that you should be shy of him.” According to another hadith, “Beware from nakedness for, with you are those who do not part company except when you are in the water closet or when a man is with his wife.” (The hadith is in Tirmidhi who declared it weak: Au.).
    • (It is in keeping with the Islamic directives with regard to Hijab, primarily designed not to provoke men and women sexually that women have been ordered not to wear perfumes with strong odors. According to a report in Abu Da’ud), once a woman came out of the Prophet’s mosque and passed by Abu Hurayrah. He stopped her and asked, “Allah’s slave, are you coming from the mosque?” When she said yes, he told her, “I have heard my beloved Abu Qasim (the Prophet) say, ‘The Prayer of a woman who wears perfume in a mosque is not accepted until she takes the bath of ritual purification at home’” (from Mawdudi).
    • Touching a non-Mahram’s body is also not allowed in Islam. The Prophet used to take the oath of allegiance from men with their hands in his hand, but not of women, to whom he administered the oath verbally and then said, “Finished. Your oath has been taken.” (From Mawdudi).
    • The Prophet strictly forbade women from traveling without a mahram, or traveling with a non-mahram. There is a tradition from Ibn `Abbas that the Prophet said in his sermon: “No man should meet a woman in privacy unless she is accompanied by any of her mahram, and no woman should travel unless she is accompanied by a mahram. (From Mawdudi).
    The Face
    • The Malikiyyah and the early Ahnaf are of the opinion that the face and hands are not included in the `awrah of a woman. One of their supporting evidence is the hadith (apart from the interpretation of the Qur’an), which says that once Asma’ bint Abi Bakr came before the Prophet clad in thin clothes. He told her, “When a woman matures she should not expose anything of her body except this – he showed his face and hands” (Sabuni). But the hadith has been unanimously declared weak because a narrator is missing between `A’isha and the next person in the line of narration (Au.).
    • However, so far as rank and file of the Hanafiyyah is concerned, that is their earlier position. Their latter day scholars, especially the powerful Deobandi school, has declared the face and the hands included in `awrah which a woman cannot display before a non-mahram (Au.).
    • The Shafe`iyyah and Hanabilah maintain that the whole of a Muslim woman’s body is `awrah, including her face and hands (Sabuni).
    • The Sunnah also tells us that it is unlawful for men to look at woman’s faces. The Prophet was asked (Muslim) about a sudden look (at a face). He said, “Turn it away.” He also told `Ali (Ahmad, Abu Da’ud), “Do not follow one look with another. For, the first is for you, but the second is not for you.” (The report however is weak: S. Ibrahim). A third is the incident of the Prophet turning away Fadl’s face away from the Khath`amiyy woman during Hajj. Finally, we have a Qur’anic verse (33: 53), “And when you ask them (the Prophet’s wives) a thing, ask them from behind a curtain” (which implies that the face is included in the `awrah) - Sabuni.
    • In any case, Mufti Shafi` writes, there is no difference in opinion between the Fuqaha’ that in situations of “fitnah” the face must be necessarily covered. (And fitnah is defined as that situation in which a man’s look turns towards a woman’s face twice: Au.). There is also consensus of opinion that the face and hands are not covered in the `awrah-requirement of the Prayers, so that, if a woman offers Prayers with the face and hands uncovered, her Prayer is acceptable. Further, there is no difference in opinion that although a woman might offer Prayers with an uncovered face, it is not allowable for men to look at her face, which is `awrah for them, either during Prayers or at any other time (Shafi`). Nevertheless, if the face and hands are covered, then too the Prayer is valid (Au).
    • “The Qur’anic command to lower gazes was prescribed at a time when women were allowed to move around with their faces uncovered. Some have argued, for example, that if the faces of women were already covered, the direction would be pointless. Such a view is irrational and contrary to the actual facts. The assumption underlying this argument is not tenable because even in a society where women kept their faces covered, there were occasions when a man might quite accidentally come face to face with a woman. Moreover, even a woman who kept her face covered might uncover it for one reason or another. Furthermore, even if Muslim women covered their faces, non-Muslim women were likely to move around with uncovered faces” (Mawdudi).
    • “According to (a) tradition (in Abu Da’ud), the son of Umm Khallad had attained martyrdom in a battle. She went to the Prophet to inquire about him with a veil that covered her face. This amazed some Companions who said to her in astonishment, ‘Even in this situation your face is covered?’ She replied, ‘I have lost my son, not my modesty.’
    • “There is yet another tradition narrated by `A’isha (also in Abu Da’ud) that someone presented a paper to the Prophet from behind a curtain. The Prophet asked whether that hand was that of a man or a woman.”
    • As for the tradition involving Fadl b. `Abbas during the Farewell Pilgrimage according to which he was staring at a woman and the Prophet turned his face away, it might be recalled that it is forbidden in the state of ihram to use a niqab to cover the face. We might also remember `A’isha’s report that during the same Hajj journey, they used to keep their faces uncovered, covering them only whenever a caravan passed by (from Mawdudi).

    وَأَنْكِحُوا الْأَيَامَىٰ مِنْكُمْ وَالصَّالِحِينَ مِنْ عِبَادِكُمْ وَإِمَائِكُمْ ۚ إِنْ يَكُونُوا فُقَرَاءَ يُغْنِهِمُ اللَّهُ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ (32)

    24|32| Marry62 the spouseless63 among you,64 and the righteous65 among your slaves and slave-girls; if they be poor, Allah will enrich them from His bounty;66 indeed Allah is All-encompassing,67 All-knowing.

    62. Yusuf Ali shows the connection: “The subject of sex ethics and manners brings us to the subject of marriage.”
    Qurtubi, Shafi` and others write: With regard to marriage, the prevalent opinion is that if a man feels that he might fall into sin, then marriage is an obligation on him (wajib). However, if he doesn’t feel so, and can keep himself chaste of mind, body and eyes, then the opinion of Imam Shafe`i is that it is “mubah” (allowed) for him (to either marry or stay single) but Imam Abu Haneefah said that it is “mustahab” (desirable) that he got married. (Malikiyyah and Hanabilah are also with the Ahnaf over this issue: Rawai`). Accordingly, to engage oneself in devotional acts is, according to Imam Shafe`i, better than getting married, while to Abu Haneefah, getting married is better.
    63. Ayama is the plural of ayyim which is for a spouseless man or woman, (whether previously married or not) - Ibn Jarir.
    Originally the word “ayyim” was for a married woman who had lost her spouse for some reason. A hadith uses the word in this sense. Subsequently the word was extended to include any free (and not slave) man or woman who was spouseless, which is the meaning here (Alusi).
    The Prophet (saws) has said in a hadith of the Sahihayn:
    يَا مَعْشَرَ الشَّبَابِ مَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ مِنْكُمُ الْبَاءَةَ فَلْيَتَزَوَّجْ فَإِنَّهُ أَغَضُّ لِلْبَصَرِ وَأَحْصَنُ لِلْفَرْجِ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَعَلَيْهِ بِالصَّوْمِ فَإِنَّهُ لَهُ وِجَاءٌ (صحيح مسلم)
    “Young men. Let him who can afford, marry. It helps in lowering the gaze and safeguarding chastity. However, let him who cannot afford it fast, for it helps control sexual urge” (Ibn Kathir).
    And, according to Abu Haneefah and Malik, a slave-girl or male slave may be coerced into marriage by the master, for that will close the door to several evils (Qurtubi). Nevertheless, the directive is of a recommendatory nature. In Asad’s words, “As most of the commentators point out, this is not an injunction but a recommendation to the community as a whole.”
    64. The Christian religion’s aversion to marriage is well-known. Majid quotes: “Actually” (wrote a Christian writer: Au.), “the misogyny of Saint Paul and his associates went so far that the sexual act which led to the birth of the child was itself a sin, and a filthy one at that.” (Another wrote: Au.), “It was this outlook of sex which led to the rule that no man or woman, married or unmarried, who had performed the sex act the previous night, should take part in Church festival or in the Eucharist” (Scott, History of Prostitution).

    وَلْيَسْتَعْفِفِ الَّذِينَ لَا يَجِدُونَ نِكَاحًا حَتَّىٰ يُغْنِيَهُمُ اللَّهُ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ ۗ وَالَّذِينَ يَبْتَغُونَ الْكِتَابَ مِمَّا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ فَكَاتِبُوهُمْ إِنْ عَلِمْتُمْ فِيهِمْ خَيْرًا ۖ وَآتُوهُمْ مِنْ مَالِ اللَّهِ الَّذِي آتَاكُمْ ۚ وَلَا تُكْرِهُوا فَتَيَاتِكُمْ عَلَى الْبِغَاءِ إِنْ أَرَدْنَ تَحَصُّنًا لِتَبْتَغُوا عَرَضَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۚ وَمَنْ يُكْرِهْهُنَّ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ مِنْ بَعْدِ إِكْرَاهِهِنَّ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (33)

    24|33| And let those who find not (the means for) marriage,68 observe chastity, until Allah enriches them from His bounty. And those who seek a contract (for freedom)69 from among those your right hands own, contract with them,70 if you know any good in them.71 And give them of the wealth of Allah that He has given you.72 And constrain not your (slave) girls to prostitution, if they desire chastity,73 in order to seek the chance goods of the life of (this) world.74 Whoever constrains them, then, surely Allah is, (to them) after their constraint, Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.75

    65. “Salehin” of the text carries a wide connotation to include physical, moral and material fitness (Au.).
    66. Since in the Islamic system the husband is responsible for maintenance of his wife, he needed this assurance (Au.).
    Hence Ibn Mas`ud used to say, “Seek prosperity in marriages for Allah (swt) has said, ‘if they be poor, Allah will enrich them from His bounty’” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    And a hadith of Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i and Ibn Majah says: 

    ثَلاَثَةٌ كُلُّهُمْ حَقٌّ عَلَى اللَّهِ عَوْنُهُ الْمُجَاهِدُ فِى سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَالنَّاكِحُ يُرِيدُ الْعَفَافَ وَالْمُكَاتَبُ يُرِيدُ الأَدَاءَ

    “Three there are whose help is binding on Allah: Someone trying to get married; a slave who has entered into an agreement to gain freedom and (sincerely) intends to pay (the amount); and a fighter in the way of Allah.”
    We find the Prophet himself marrying off a man who had nothing beyond a piece of cloth on his body and could not manage even an iron ring as “mahr” .. marrying him off to a woman on the condition that he would teach her of the Qur’an he knew (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Sabuni raises a question and then answers it: Do we not see around us people who remain poor after marriage? The answer is, being rich or poor, married or unmarried, is by Allah’s will. Being single would not mean the man would get rich, nor getting married and having children necessarily makes a man poor. Allah (swt) is capable of enriching a man although married and with large number of children, as well as rendering a man poor even if he remained single. Further, we should not forget the hadith which says,

    وَإِنَّ مِنْ عِبَادِي الْمُؤْمِنِينَ لَمَنْ لا يُصلِحُ إِيمَانَهُ إِلا الْفَقْرُ ، وَلَوْ أَغْنَيْتُهُ لأَفْسَدَهُ ذَلِكَ

    “There are some among My slaves whom nothing suits but poverty. Were I to enrich him, his (spiritual) condition would deteriorate” (Rawae`).
    The above is a weak report (Au.).
    67. “Wasi`” as an attribute of Allah is difficult to explain with a single word. Ample, Bounteous, of unlimited resources, etc. are ways in which the meaning contained in it could be explained and yet not adequately (Au.).
    68. The words in parenthesis reflect Zamakhshari’s suggestion (Au.).
    69. Literally “kitab” is for writing, meaning here, a written agreement (Zamakhshari and others). Asad comments: “The noun kitab is, in this context, an equivalent of kitabah or mukaatabah (lit., “Mutual agreement in writing), a juridical term signifying a “deed of freedom” or “of manumission.”
    70. The injunction refers to a written agreement between a slave and his master which, in the words of Majid, “obliges the master to set his slave at liberty on receiving a certain sum of money which the latter collects either by his labour or by receiving free gifts from well-to-do Muslims.” Asad adds, “(an agreement: Au.) .. to the effect that the slave undertakes to purchase his or her freedom for an equitable sum of money payable in installments before or after the manumission, or, alternatively, by rendering a clearly specified service or services to his or her owner. With this end in view, the slave is legally entitled to engage in any legitimate, gainful work or to obtain the necessary sum of money by any other lawful means (e.g., through a loan or a gift from a third person).”
    Now, what is the rule? Is it necessary for a master that if his slave wishes to enter into a deal by which he would pay a sum and win his freedom that he should accept the proposal? The answer according to `Umar, Ibn `Abbas and `Ata’ is that it is obligatory (wajib); while a few others maintained that it is not wajib, but is entirely to the discretion of the master. The earlier opinion, adds Ibn Jarir, seems to be the correct one. Hence a report by Anas b. Malik: “Seereen asked me for release on an amount but I refused. He complained to `Umar. He raised his whip over me and said, ‘Make the contract’ and recited this verse. (Ibn Kathir treated this report as trustworthy: Shawkani).
    Ibn Kathir however reports that according to Imam Shafe`i, Malik and Abu Haneefah, it is not obligatory since a hadith of the Prophet says that a Muslim cannot be forced to expend his wealth except willingly.
    Asad presents perhaps the generally acceptable position: In view of the imperative form of the verb katibuhum (“write it out for them”), the deed of manumission cannot be refused by the owner, the only precondition being an evidence – to be established, if necessary, by an unbiased arbiter or arbiters – of the slave’s good character and ability to fulfill his or her contractual obligations. The stipulation that such a deed of manumission may not be refused, and the establishment of precise juridical directives to this end, clearly indicates that Islamic Law has from its very beginning aimed at abolition of slavery as a social institution, and that its prohibition in modern times constitutes no more than a final implementation of the aim.”
    71. How is this “good” to be evaluated? What are the parameters? According to Ibn `Umar, Ibn `Abbas and Malik bin Anas, it is the ability to earn their livelihood, so that they do not become a burden on the state. But Hasan, Mujahid, Ta’oos, Abu Saleh, and others said that it is moral qualities such as truthfulness, integrity, etc., that must be checked before the deal is made. But it seems it is the combination of the two that is meant (Ibn Jarir).
    “Thus,” writes Sayyid, “the master must ensure that the man to be freed should have the ability to live on his own, and earn his own livelihood. He should not be let loose to be a burden on the society.. Islam is a practical system and not an ideal one which would say, ‘Let all the slaves be freed, at once, and all else is secondary.’ No. Islam deals with the real situation in a practical manner. If the freed slave is incapable of earning his or her own livelihood, then he is likely to find himself enslaved again. He is not free in truth. He might be forced into meanly ways in order to survive, and end up polluting the society. After all, he was freed to cleanse the society, and not to pollute it anew.”
    72. There are two opinions about who is alluded to: the master, or wealthy persons of the society? The first addressee seems to be the masters, and then those who can afford to help in the matter. The practice of the Salaf was that when a slave brought up the amount agreed upon, they would keep a part and return a part which in most cases happened to be about twenty-five percent. However, that, only when the slave had brought in the money he had agreed upon. That is, the entire amount. They would take the whole amount from him and then return a part as their contribution. So, this is how they understood this Qur'anic injunction.
    Ibn Jarir thinks it is the men of means who are addressed, in which case, obviously, the first would be the master himself if he happens to be rich. He and Ibn Kathir have the same kind of reports to present to substantiate their opinions.
    Asad comments: “According to all authorities, this relates (a) to a moral obligation on the part of the owner to promote the slave’s efforts to obtain the necessary revenues by helping him or her to achieve an independent economic status and/or by remitting a part of the agreed-upon compensation, and (b) to the obligation of the state treasury (bayt al-mal) to finance the freeing of slaves in accordance with Islamic principles - enunciated in 9: 60 – that the revenues obtained through the obligatory .. zakah are to be utilized, among other purposes, ‘for the freeing of human beings from bondage (fi riqab).’ Hence, Zamakhshari holds that the above clause is addressed not merely to persons owning slaves but to the community as a whole.”
    Sayyid further elaborates on state help. He writes: “Herewith, it is the community that is addressed. They are to marry off the spouseless. The majority of scholars believe that the statement is not imperative, but only suggestive. Their proof is in the fact that the Muslim society at the time of the Prophet was not without unmarried persons .. However, in our opinion the address is of imperative nature, not in the sense of the unmarried being forced to marry, but in the sense of the fortunate ones helping off the less fortunate ones wanting to get married, with the view to safeguarding their chastity. It would be a means of protection, and of cleansing the Islamic polity of moral perversion. This is something that is obligatory on the community, and what leads to the completion of an obligation, is itself an obligation.
    “We might also straighten up the account by saying that Islam – as a complete and comprehensive system – solves the economic problems at its roots. It places the responsibility of earning livelihood on the individuals themselves: those who are capable of it and do not need the help of the governmental treasury. However, in exceptional cases it declares the treasury responsible for certain kinds of help.. This, as said, is the exceptional case, and not the norm. Islamic economic system is not based on exceptional situations, but on the norms of every individual making his or her own effort to earn the needs of life.
    “However, if the Islamic society finds – after the efforts of the individuals – poor men and women, whose own earnings are not enough for them to get married, then it is the community which has to come out in support. Allah ordered its rich to rise up to the need.”
    73. Why did Allah add, “If they desire chastity?” Zamakhshari answers that it is because it is only those who desire chastity that can be forced.
    Others have explained that in pre-Islamic times the slave-girls freely indulged in it which did not win them respect. When Islam came, some of them resisted when asked to comply. So their masters are being taunted: will you now (who used to disdain it earlier) make them do it, while they have changed and are resisting it?
    Sabuni writes: The masters are being taunted: Look! You are supposed to guard the chastity of the slave-girls that you own. Will you stoop so low as to put to prostitution those, who, although not expected to be very mindful of chastity, are now unwilling? (Rawae`)
    74. It is widely reported that it is `Abdullah ibn Ubayy b. Sallul who occasioned the revelation of this verse. He had a slave-girl called Musayka. (In fact, according to Muslim two, Musayka and Umaymah, both of whom he tried to force to prostitution: Shawkani). She came to some of the Ansar and complained that her master was forcing her to prostitution. Some other reports say she went to Abu Bakr. He reported to the Prophet. The Prophet instructed him to hold back the slave-girl, and Ibn Ubayy shouted in frustration: “Who will save us from Muhammad. He is snatching away our slaves too.” So Allah revealed this verse. (Report about Musayka is in Nasa’i: Ibn Kathir). Another report says that `Abdullah ibn Ubayy had a Qurayshi prisoner he had taken at Badr. And he had a slave-girl called Mu`adha. The prisoner sought her. But the slave-girl was not willing. Now, Ibn Ubayy wished her to lie with him hoping she would get pregnant by him, bring a child, and for whom also Ibn Ubayy could demand and collect ransom. So, he would beat her for refusing, and she complained to the Ansar (Ibn Jarir). Qurtubi adds, “Those days a man would pay 100 camels to retrieve his son born through a slave-girl owned by another.”
    The report about Mu`adha is in Abdul Razzaq’s collection (Ibn Kathir). Actually, it is reported that Abdullah ibn Ubayy had six slave-girls, two of whom complained against his coercion (Zamakhshari).
    At all events, the Prophet declared it unlawful, as in a well-known hadith in Muslim, which includes,

    شَرُّ الْكَسْبِ مَهْرُ الْبَغِىِّ وَثَمَنُ الْكَلْبِ وَكَسْبُ الْحَجَّامِ

    “The worst of earning is the earning through prostitution, the price of a dog, and those of a soothsayer” (Ibn Kathir, Shawkani).
    75. That is, Allah will forgive a slave-girl’s adultery if she is forced into it. The sin will be entirely upon the one who forced her (Ibn `Abbas, Sa`id b. Jubayr and others: Tabari).
    Yusuf Ali points to a perennial problem: “Where slavery was legal, what is now called the “white slave traffic," it was carried on by wicked people like ‘Abdullah ibn Ubai, the Hypocrite leader at Madinah. This is absolutely condemned. While modern nations have abolished ordinary slavery, the “White Slave Traffic” is still a big social problem in individual States. Here it is absolutely condemned. No more despicable trade can be imagined.‏”
    The individual states of Yusuf Ali’s mention, now cover whole continents. Sexual exploitation of women, highest ever at present in the West, where every fourth woman has, admittedly, shown sexual favors to the superiors in employment, is actually more rampant than the voluntary admittance to the surveyors (Au.).

    وَلَقَدْ أَنْزَلْنَا إِلَيْكُمْ آيَاتٍ مُبَيِّنَاتٍ وَمَثَلًا مِنَ الَّذِينَ خَلَوْا مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ وَمَوْعِظَةً لِلْمُتَّقِينَ (34)

    24|34| And now We have sent down to you verses illuminating, and an example of those who went before you, and an exhortation unto the Godfearing.

    اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ مَثَلُ نُورِهِ كَمِشْكَاةٍ فِيهَا مِصْبَاحٌ ۖ الْمِصْبَاحُ فِي زُجَاجَةٍ ۖ الزُّجَاجَةُ كَأَنَّهَا كَوْكَبٌ دُرِّيٌّ يُوقَدُ مِنْ شَجَرَةٍ مُبَارَكَةٍ زَيْتُونَةٍ لَا شَرْقِيَّةٍ وَلَا غَرْبِيَّةٍ يَكَادُ زَيْتُهَا يُضِيءُ وَلَوْ لَمْ تَمْسَسْهُ نَارٌ ۚ نُورٌ عَلَىٰ نُورٍ ۗ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ لِنُورِهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۚ وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ (35)

    24|35| Allah is the Light76 of the heavens and the earth.77 The likeness of His Light78 is like a niche79 within which is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass.80 The glass as if it were a pearly (white) star:81 lit from a blessed tree - an olive - neither of the east nor of the west.82 Its oil would well-nigh glow forth even though fire touched it not.83 Light upon Light.84 Allah guides to His Light whom He will.85 Allah strikes similitudes for mankind.86 And Allah is Knowing of all things.

    76. With regard to the word “Nur”, Ibn `Abbas said that the allusion is to Allah’s guidance found in every believer’s heart. Some others have said that it is the Nur of the Qur’an which is the source of all guidance. There have been a few other, minor opinions too (Ibn Jarir).
    Qurtubi writes: The attribution of Nur to Allah is in the same vein as the people saying about a man, “He is the light of the town.” Allah may be referred to as Nur by way of praise; otherwise, Allah is not ‘the Light’ that the eyes can see.
    One might be reminded, says Shabbir, that just as other Attributes of Allah, such as Hearing, Sight, etc., Nur is another Attribute that does not hazard a guess on the basis of attributes known to us.
    Ibn `Abbas and Anas b. Malik have also explained the words, “Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth” as meaning, “He is the Guide of all those in the heavens and the earth,” for, Anas added, Allah’s Light is His guidance (or, conversely, His guidance is like Light: Au.). – Ibn Jarir.
    In fact, Qurtubi writes, Allah (swt) named His Book as Nur. He said (4: 174)

    { وَأَنْزَلْنَا إِلَيْكُمْ نُورًا مُبِينًا } [النساء: 174]

    “We have sent down to you a clear Light.”
    Allah also called His Messenger a Nur. He said (5: 15)

    {قَدْ جَاءَكُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ نُورٌ وَكِتَابٌ مُبِينٌ } [المائدة: 15]

    “Surely, there has come to you from Allah a Light and a clear Book.”
    Zamakhshari comments: The meaning is, He is the possessor of the Light of the heavens and the earth, and the Owner of the Light of the heavens and the earth .. in the like manner of Allah’s words (2: 257),

    {اللَّهُ وَلِيُّ الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا يُخْرِجُهُمْ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ} [البقرة: 257]

    “Allah is the protector of the believers. He brings them out of darknesses into Light” – i.e., from falsehood into guidance.
    Allah attributed Light to the heavens and the earth in one of the two senses. Either to point at the vastness of its radiance and its dissemination, so that it reaches all corners of the heavens and the earth; or it might have been meant to say that those in the heavens and the earth seek and draw Light thereby ..
    `Ali (ra) is reported to have commented on the words, “Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth” as meaning, “He spread across the truth in it, has proliferated it so that it brightened up by His Light, or, brightened the hearts of its inhabitants.”
    We have a report in the Sahihayn which says that when the Prophet got up for his pre-dawn Prayer he would say,

    اللَّهُمَّ لَكَ الْحَمْدُ ، أَنْتَ نُورُ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَمَنْ فِيهِنَّ ، وَلَكَ الْحَمْدُ أَنْتَ قَيِّمُ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَمَنْ فِيهِنَّ ،...

    “O Allah, for You the praise. You are the Light of the heavens and the earth and what is in them. For You the praise. You are the Care-taker of the heavens and the earth and what is in them ..” to the end of the hadith (Ibn Kathir).
    Yusuf Ali adds: “The physical light is but a reflection of the true Light in the world of Reality, and that true Light is Allah. We can only think of Allah (swt) in terms of our phenomenal experience, and in the phenomenal world, light is the purest thing we know, but physical light has drawbacks incidental to its physical nature: e.g. (1) it is dependent upon some source external to itself; (2) it is a passing phenomenon; if we take it to be a form of motion or energy it is unstable, like all physical phenomena; (3) it is dependent on space and time; its speed is 186,000 miles per second, and there are stars whose light takes thousands of years before it reaches the earth. The perfect Light of Allah is free from any such defects.‏”
    We could perhaps end with Dr. Iqbal’s remark as quoted by Majid. Noting that Iqbal died in the 1930’s, one may appreciate how abreast he was of newest discoveries and how intelligently he applied them to religious truths, in contrast with the cheap material now being presented under the nomenclature “The Qur’an and Modern Science”: “The teaching of modern physics is that the velocity of light cannot be exceeded and is the same for all observers whatever their own system of movement. Thus in the world of change, light is the nearest approach to the Absolute. The metaphor of light as applied to God, therefore, must in view of modern knowledge, be taken to suggest the Absoluteness of God.”
    77. In our effort to understand this parable, which can be referred to as the “beauty-spot” of the Qur’an, and which has not failed to strike as the most beautiful to countless non-Muslim readers, we might start with a general remark by Yusuf Ali. We shall turn to him often for his remarks as we go down the text. He writes at this point, “Embedded within certain directions concerning a refined domestic and social life, comes this glorious parable of light, which contains layer upon layer of transcendent truth about spiritual mysteries. No notes can do adequate justice to its full meaning. Volumes have been written on this subject.”
    78. “The likeness of His Light”: To whom is the pronoun “his” referring to, and to what Light is the allusion? There are a variety of answers from the earliest commentators. As for the pronoun, Ubayy b. Ka`b said that the allusion is to the believer. That is, Allah is talking of the light in the heart of the believer.
    79. Asad remarks: ‘The particle ka (“as if” or “as it were”) prefixed to a noun is called kaf al-tashbih (the “letter kaf points to a resemblance [of one to another]” or “indicating a metaphor”). In the above context it alludes to the impossibility of defining God even by means of a metaphor or a parable – for, since “there is nothing like unto Him” (42: 11), there is also “nothing that could be compared with Him” (112: 4). Hence, the parable of “the light of God” is not meant to express His reality – which is inconceivable to any created being and, therefore, inexpressible in any human language – but only allude to the illumination which He, who is the Ultimate Truth, bestows upon the mind and the feelings of all who are willing to be guided. Tabari, Baghawi and Ibn Kathir quote Ibn `Abbas as saying in this context: “It is the parable of His light in the heart of a believer.”’
    80. In explanation of the words niche, lamp, glass and the oil, a variety of opinions have been expressed by the scholars of the first few generations. Tabari sums up as follows: The Light is the light of the Qur’an, the niche the believer’s breast, the lamp is the Qur’an, and the glass his heart. Ubayy b. Ka`b, Ibn `Abbas and a few others expressed opinions close to this.
    Yusuf Ali offers a few clues and opens new avenues of thought: “The first three points in the Parable center round the symbols of the Niche, the Lamp, and the Glass. (1) The Niche (Mishkat) is the little shallow recess in the wall of an Eastern house, fairly high from the ground, in which a light (before the days of electricity) was usually placed. Its height enabled it to diffuse the light in the room and minimised the shadows. The background of the wall and the sides of the niche helped to throw the light well into the room, and if the wall was white-washed, it also acted as a reflector: the opening in front made the way for the light. So with the spiritual Light; it is placed high, above worldly things; it has a niche or habitation of its own, in Revelation and other Signs of Allah; its access to men is by a special Way, open to all, yet closed to those who refuse its rays. (2) The Lamp is the core of the spiritual Truth, which is the real illumination; the Niche is nothing without it; the Niche is actually made for it. (3) The Glass is the transparent medium through which the Light passes. On the one hand, it protects the light from moths and other forms of low life and from gusts of wind, and on the other, it transmits the light through a medium which is made up of and akin to the grosser substances of the earth (such as sand, soda, potash, etc.), so arranged as to admit the subtle to the gross by its transparency. So the spiritual Truth has to be filtered through human language or human intelligence to make it intelligible to mankind.”
    81. Asad notes: ‘The “lamp” is the revelation which God grants to His prophets and which is reflected in the believer’s heart – the “niche” of the above parable (Ubayy ibn Ka`b as quoted by Tabari) – after being received and consciously grasped by his reason .. for it is through reason alone that true faith finds its way into the heart of man.’
    82. “Neither eastern nor western”: once again, there are several opinions. Tabari’s own preference is that the olive tree is situated in such a way that it receives full light from the sun – in the east-west direction. Such an olive tree yields full fruit. However, Hasan has said that it is not a tree of this earth but rather heavenly, and hence neither eastern nor western.
    Ubayy b. Ka`b said, “That is how a believer is. He is protected from calamities touching him, and if struck, he is helped by Allah to remain steadfast. Thus he lives following four conditions: if he speaks, he speaks the truth; if he judges, he judges in justice; if he is tried, he observes patience; and if given, is grateful. Among others (not of his class) he is like a living person walking about between the dead in the graves (Ibn Kathir).
    Yusuf Ali adds: “This Olive is not localised. It is neither of the East nor of the West. It is universal, for such is Allah’s Light. As applied to the olive, there is also a more literal meaning, which can be allegorised in a different way. An olive tree with an eastern aspect gets only the rays of the morning sun; one with a western aspect, only the rays of the western sun. In the northern hemisphere the south aspect will give the sun’s rays a great part of the day, while a north aspect will shut them out altogether, and vice versa in the southern hemisphere. But a tree in the open plain or on a hill will get perpetual sunshine by day; it will be more mature, and the fruit and oil will be of superior quality. So Allah’s light is not localised or immature: it is perfect and universal.”
    83. That is, the Qur’anic revelation is of such qualities as to shine by itself. When details, evidences and other signs are added, then it is light upon light (Ibn Jarir).
    84. Ubay b. Ka`b commented on "light upon light" in the following words:

    فهو يتقلب في خمسة من النور، فكلامه نور، وعمله نور، ومدخله نور، ومخرجه نور، ومصيره إلى النور يوم القيامة إلى الجنة. (تفسير ابن كثير)

    "So (the possessor) goes about with five kinds of nur: His speech is nur, his action is nur, his entry is nur, his departure is nur and his ultimate destination is nur on the Day of Standing to Paradise" (Ibn Kathir).
    Asad again, “The essence of the Qur’anic message is described elsewhere as ‘clear [in itself] and clearly showing the truth’ .. and it is, I believe, this aspect of the Qur’an that the above sentence alludes to. Its message gives light because it proceeds from God; but ‘it would well-nigh give light [of itself] even though fire had not touched it’: i.e., even though one may be unaware that it has been ‘touched by the fire’ of divine revelation, its inner consistency, truth and wisdom ought to be self-evident to anyone who approaches it in the light of his reason and without prejudice.”
    85. A hadith explains this. Imam Ahmad reports the Prophet as having said,

    إنَّ الله خَلَقَ خَلّقَهُ في ظُلْمَهُ ، فألقى عليهم من نُورِهِ ، فمن أصابه من ذلك النور اهتدى ، ومن أخطأه ضَلَّ

    “Allah created His creation in darkness then He threw of His Light on them. So, whosoever received the Light that day, was guided aright, while he who missed it, went astray.” (Suyuti declared the report as trustworthy in his Jami`: Au.). Another hadith – quite trustworthy - of Imam Ahmad says,

    الْقُلُوبُ أَرْبَعَةٌ قَلْبٌ أجْرَدُ فِيهِ مِثْلُ السِّرَاجِ يُزْهِرُ وَقَلَبٌ أَغْلَفُ مَرْبُوطٌ عَلَى غِلاَفِهِ وَقَلْبٌ مَنْكُوسٌ وَقَلَبٌ مُصْفَحٌ فَأَمَّا الْقَلْبُ الأَجْرَدُ فَقَلْبُ الْمُؤْمِنِ سِرَاجُهُ فِيهِ نُورُهُ وَأَمَّا الْقَلْبُ الأَغْلَفُ فَقَلْبُ الْكَافِرِ وَأَمَّا الْقَلْبُ المَنْكُوسُ فَقَلْبُ الْمُنَافِقِ عَرَفَ ثُمَّ أَنْكَرَ وَأَمَّا الْقَلْبُ المُصْفَحُ فَقَلْبٌ فِيهِ إِيمَانٌ وَنِفَاقٌ فَمَثَلُ الإِيمَانِ فِيهِ كَمَثَلِ الْبَقْلَةِ يَمُدُّهَا الْمَاءُ الطَّيِّبُ وَمَثَلُ النِّفَاقِ فِيهِ كَمَثَلِ الْقُرْحَةِ يَمُدُّهَا الْقَيْحُ وَالدَّمُ فَأَىُّ الْمَدَّتَيْنِ غَلَبَتْ عَلَى الأُخْرَى غَلَبَتْ عَلَيْهِ (إسناده جيد)
    “Hearts are of four kinds, (a) a clear heart like a shining lamp; (b) a covered heart, bound from all sides; (c) a heart turned upside down; and (d) an armor-clad heart. The clear heart is that of the believer. It has its shine. The closed heart is that of the unbeliever. The heart turned upside down is that of the hypocrite: he knew and then denied. As for the armor-clad heart, it is one which has both faith and hypocrisy embedded in it. The example of the faith in it is like a plant that is helped by clean water; and the example of hypocrisy in it is like that of a wound which is worsened by blood and pus. So, whichever of the two overcomes the other, dominates” (Ibn Kathir).
    86. “I.e., because of their complexity, certain truths can be conveyed only by means of parables and allegories” (Asad).
    Thanwi writes: In the like manner, when Allah (swt) places the light of His guidance into the heart of a believer, then, his willingness to receive the guidance increases by the day as he is ever ready to act according to commandments. Sometimes, he might not even be aware of the commandments, for knowledge is obtained gradually, (yet he is ever ready to obey) in the same manner as the oil, which would light up even if fire did not touch it. When he obtains knowledge, then, with his resolve to live by it, which is a higher state, his light of knowledge blends with it, and the fusing together of knowledge and action (`ilm wa `amal) get transformed into true light. It does not happen with him that when he receives knowledge, he suffers from indecision or procrastination, so that, if it agrees with the baser self then it is accepted, and when not, rejected. This opening of the heart and the light have been referred to in another verse which says (39: 22),

    {أَفَمَنْ شَرَحَ اللَّهُ صَدْرَهُ لِلْإِسْلَامِ فَهُوَ عَلَى نُورٍ مِنْ رَبِّهِ} [الزمر: 22]

    “He then, whose heart Allah opened for Islam, so that he is upon a Light from his Lord..” and, in another place (6: 144),

    {فَمَنْ يُرِدِ اللَّهُ أَنْ يَهدِيَهُ يَشْرَحْ صَدْرَهُ لِلْإِسْلَامِ} [الأنعام: 125]

    “Then whomsoever that Allah wishes to guide, He opens his heart for Islam.”

    فِي بُيُوتٍ أَذِنَ اللَّهُ أَنْ تُرْفَعَ وَيُذْكَرَ فِيهَا اسْمُهُ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ فِيهَا بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالْآصَالِ (36)

    24|36| In houses that Allah has allowed to be raised87 and wherein is mentioned His Name, glorifying Him therein, in the morning and the evenings.88

    87. That is, the lamps are in houses that Allah has permitted that they be raised. And by “houses” the allusion is to mosque. That was the opinion of Ibn `Abbas, Hasan, Mujahid, Ibn Zayd and others (Ibn Jarir).
    Hasan (al-Busri) has said, “Allah did not mean by these words that the buildings be raised high, but rather, that they be honored” (Kashshaf).
    The commentators use the occasion to collect together Prophetic traditions concerning mosques. Here is a summarized report of their various presentations:
    Ibn `Abbas is reported to have said that the mosques on earth shine for those in the heaven just as stars shine for the inhabitants of the earth (Qurtubi).
    A hadith of Muslim says,

    مَنْ غَدَا إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ وَرَاحَ أَعَدَّ اللَّهُ لَهُ فِي الْجَنَّةِ نُزُلا كُلَّمَا غَدَا وَرَاحَ

    “Whoever went to a mosque in the morning or in the evening, Allah prepares for him a place in Paradise every time he goes either in the morning or in the evening.”
    According to another, well-known hadith,

    بَشِّرِ الْمَشَّائِينَ فِي الظُّلَمِ إِلَى الْمَسَاجِدِ بِالنُّورِ التَّامِّ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ

    “Give glad tidings of complete Light to those who walk up to the mosques in darknesses” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    The Prophet also said,

    مَنْ تَطَهَّرَ فِى بَيْتِهِ ، ثُمَّ مَشَى إِلَى بَيْتٍ مِنْ بُيُوتِ اللَّهِ تَعَالَى فَيَقْضِى فَرِيضَةً مِنْ فَرَائِضِ اللَّهِ كَانَتْ خُطُوَاتُهُ إِحْدَاهُمَا تَحُطُّ خَطِيئَةً ، وَالأُخْرَى تَرْفَعُ دَرَجَةً

    “Whoever cleansed himself in his house then went to one of the houses of Allah in order to do the obligatory Prayer, then, one of his steps erases a sin while another raises his rank in Paradise.”
    Another report says,

    صَلاةُ الرَّجُلِ فِي جَمَاعَةٍ تَعْدِلُ صَلاتَهُ وَحْدَهُ خَمْسًا وَعِشْرِينَ

    “A man’s Prayer in the mosque is twenty-five times better than his Prayer alone in his house” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Uthman b. `Affan (ra) said, I heard the Prophet say,

    مَنْ بَنَى مَسْجِدًا يَبْتَغِى بِهِ وَجْهَ اللَّهِ بَنَى اللَّهُ لَهُ بَيْتًا مِثْلَهُ فِى الْجَنَّةِ

    ‘Whoever built a mosque seeking Allah’s Face, Allah will build for him a house similar to it in Paradise” (Qurtubi).
    The report is in the Sahihayn (Ibn Kathir).
    Another report has `A’isha saying,

    أَمَرَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بِبِنَاءِ الْمَسَاجِدِ فِي الدُّورِ ، وَأَنْ تُنَظَّفَ وَتُطَيَّبَ

    “The Prophet ordered (us) to build mosques in the neighborhoods and that they should be kept clean and perfumed” (Ahmad, Abu Da’ud, Tuhfa: S. Ibrahim, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Once a man announced in the mosque about a camel he had lost. The Prophet (saws) told him,
    لا وجدتَ ، إنما بُنِيَتْ المساجد لما بُنيت له
    “May you not find it. Mosques are built for what they are built” (Muslim) – Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir.
    One may not enter a mosque having eaten such pungent vegetables as garlic, onions, etc., unless cooked and their smell destroyed (Qurtubi).
    A report of Hasan (good) status states that the Prophet prohibited trade, commerce and poetical sessions in the mosques (Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i).
    One may not even discuss worldly affairs in the mosque. The Prophet said, according to a report in Muslim,

    إنَّ هَذِهِ الصَّلاةَ لا يَحِلُّ فِيهَا شَيْءٌ مِنْ كَلامِ النَّاسِ هَذَا، إِنَّمَا هُوَ التَّسْبِيحُ، وَالتَّكْبِيرُ، وَقِرَاءَةُ الْقُرْآنِ

    “Nothing of the people’s talks suits these mosques. They are for glorification, exaltation (of Allah) and for recitation of the Qur’an.”
    Accordingly, once when Khalaf b. Ayyub was sitting in the mosque a lad came in to tell him something. He went out of the mosque to answer him. When he returned he explained, “For such and such number of years I haven’t talked worldly affairs in this mosque, and didn’t like to do it now” (Qurtubi).
    Most scholars say that it is desirable (mustahab) that one may not sit down upon entering a mosque without offering two cycles of Prayer (Qurtubi).
    Bukhari has Yezid b. Kindi reporting, “As I stood in the mosque, ‘Umar told me, ‘Fetch me those two men.’ So I brought them to him. He asked them, ‘Where are you from?’ They said, ‘Ta’if.’ He said, ‘Had you been of this town I would have punished you for raising your voices in the Prophet’s mosque.’”
    The Prophet had earmarked a special door for women to enter his mosque. During ‘Umar’s reign, he strictly barred men from using that door either for entering or for going out of the mosque (Abu Da’ud).
    As for women, the best places for them for Prayers are the inmost parts of their houses. Ahmad reports about Umm Humayd, the wife of Abu Humayd al-Sa`idi that she went to the Prophet and said, ‘I love to Pray with you.’

    قَدْ عَلِمْتُ أَنَّكِ تُحِبِّينَ الصَّلاَةَ مَعِى وَصَلاَتُكِ فِى بَيْتِكِ خَيْرٌ لَكِ مِنْ صَلاَتِكِ فِى حُجْرَتِكِ وَصَلاَتُكِ فِى حُجْرَتِكِ خَيْرٌ مِنْ صَلاَتِكِ فِى دَارِكِ وَصَلاَتُكِ فِى دَارِكِ خَيْرٌ لَكِ مِنْ صَلاَتِكِ فِى مَسْجِدِ قَوْمِكِ وَصَلاَتُكِ فِى مَسْجِدِ قَوْمِكِ خَيْرٌ لَكِ مِنْ صَلاَتِكِ فِى مَسْجِدِى (صحيح ابن حبان)

    He replied, ‘I understand that you love to Pray with me. But your Prayer within your house is better than your Prayer in your quarters. And your Prayer in your quarters is better than your Prayer within your compound. And your Prayer in your compound is better than your Prayer in the mosque of your people. And your Prayer in the mosque of your people is better than your Prayer in my mosque.’
    It is reported that she got a mosque constructed in the inmost quarter of her compound and used to Pray therein until she met with Allah.
    But of course they cannot be prevented from Praying in the mosques provided they do not make a nuisance of themselves, for a report in Bukhari says,

    لا تَمْنَعُوا إِمَاءَ اللَّهِ الْمَسَاجِدَ
    “Do not prohibit Allah’s bondswomen from Allah’s mosques” (Sahihyan), while reports in Abu Da’ud and Ahmad add, “Although their houses are better for them.” During the Prophet’s time women’s presence at Fajr is well reported. But, things began to change after him so that `A’isha had to remark, as in the Sahihayn,

    لَوْ أَدْرَكَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ - صلى الله عليه وسلم - مَا أَحْدَثَ النِّسَاءُ لَمَنَعَهُنَّ كَمَا مُنِعَتْ نِسَاءُ بَنِى إِسْرَائِيلَ (صحيح البخارى)
    “Were the Prophet to know what innovations women had brought, he would have forbidden them from the mosques just as Israelite women were forbidden.”
    As regards decoration of mosques, there are two opinions about their legality. One opinion says it is undesirable. Abu Da’ud has a narrative according to which the Prophet (saws) said,

    مَا أُمِرْتُ بِتَشْيِيدِ الْمَسْجِدِ

    “I have not been commanded to decorate the mosque” (Ibn Kathir).
    In another report he said,

    لا تَقُومُ السَّاعَةُ حَتَّى يَتَبَاهَى النَّاسُ بِالْمَسَاجِدِ.
    “The hour will not strike until people begin to compete in (the decoration of) mosques” (Ahmad, Abu Da’ud, Ibn Majah) – Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir.
    This is strengthened by the report which tells us that when `Umar (ra) got the Prophet’s mosque expanded and renovated, he ordered the contractor not to use bright colors that might distract the devotees.
    A second opinion is that there is no harm. Apart from several, this opinion is influenced by the Qur’anic words (24: 36),

    {فِي بُيُوتٍ أَذِنَ اللَّهُ أَنْ تُرْفَعَ} [النور: 36]
    “In houses that Allah has allowed to be raised” – where “raised” is understood in the sense of “raising the esteem and honor.” They also rely on the report which says that when `Uthman ibn `Affan expanded the Prophet’s mosque, he used some expensive wood.
    It is also reported that when `Umar b. `Abdul `Aziz expanded the Prophet’s mosque, he got it decorated quite heavily, without anyone objecting to it. That was during his governorship of Madinah, before he took over as the Caliph.
    As for the hadith which says, “The Hour will not strike until people begin to boast about mosques” (i.e., as to who built the better one), some scholars have argued that this hadith does not say anything about the lawfulness or unlawfulness of decoration. Nevertheless, it is certainly desirable that the mosques be lit on special occasions, and especially so in the month of Ramadan (Qurtubi).
    88. It might be noticed that morning is in singular while evening in plural. This is because the textual word “ghuduww” is the root word (masdar) which cannot be made plural, whereas “asal” (sing.: aseel) is a noun of which a plural can be made” (Razi and others).
    Majid adds: “The Arabic word asil indicates the time from afternoon to dark, thus covering the two afternoon prayers and the two evening prayers” (to which, if the morning prayer is added – the ghuduww – we would arrive at five daily prayers: au.). Some experts of the past however have conjectured that asal is the plural of plural usul, which is the plural of asil.

    رِجَالٌ لَا تُلْهِيهِمْ تِجَارَةٌ وَلَا بَيْعٌ عَنْ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَإِقَامِ الصَّلَاةِ وَإِيتَاءِ الزَّكَاةِ ۙ يَخَافُونَ يَوْمًا تَتَقَلَّبُ فِيهِ الْقُلُوبُ وَالْأَبْصَارُ (37)

    24|37| Men whom neither commerce nor sale distracts from the remembrance of Allah, performance of Prayers and giving in charity.89 They fear a Day when the hearts and sights will be convulsed.

    89. In reference to this verse we have a narration in Hannad b. Sirri’s collection, as in Ibn Abi Hatim, Ibn Marduwayh, and Bayhaqi which reports Asma’ bint Yezid saying that the Prophet (saws) said,

    يجمع الله يوم القيامة الناس في صعيدٍ واحدٍ يسمعهم الداعي ، وينفذهم البصر ، فيقوم منادٍ ، فينادي : أين الذين كانوا يحمدون الله في السرّاء والضرّاء؟ فيقومون ، وهم قليل ، فيدخلون الجنة بغير حساب؛ ثم يعود فينادي : أين الذين كانت تتجافى جنوبهم عن المضاجع؟ فيقومون ، وهم قليل فيدخلون الجنة بغير حساب؛ ثم يعود فينادي : ليقم الذين كانوا لا تلهيهم تجارة ، ولا بيع عن ذكر الله ، فيقومون ، وهم قليل فيدخلون الجنة بغير حساب ، ثم يقوم سائر الناس ، فيحاسبون

    “Allah will collect together mankind in one plain field where a caller’s voice will reach them (all) and the eyes will see (all). Then a caller will rise up and call out, ‘Where are those who praised Allah in their ease and hardships?’ A few will rise up and enter Paradise without reckoning. Then the caller will call out, ‘Where are those whose bodies were rent separate from the beds?’ A few will rise up and enter Paradise without reckoning. Then the caller will call, ‘Where are those whom commerce and trading did not distract from the remembrance of Allah?’ A few will rise up and enter Paradise without reckoning. Then the rest of the people will be taken up for reckoning.”
    Hakim declared this report as credible (Shawkani).
    The Companions were the first generation to which this verse applied perfectly. `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud is reported to be in the market-square when the Adhan was called out. He saw the traders abandon their trade and goods and repair to the mosque. He remarked, ‘These are the ones Allah (swt) spoke of when He said, “Men, whom neither commerce nor sale detracts from the remembrance of Allah ..” A similar report comes from Ibn `Umar (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir and others).

    لِيَجْزِيَهُمُ اللَّهُ أَحْسَنَ مَا عَمِلُوا وَيَزِيدَهُمْ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يَرْزُقُ مَنْ يَشَاءُ بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ (38)

    24|38| So that Allah may reward them for better than what they did and add to them out of His grace. And Allah provides whom He will without reckoning.

    وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَعْمَالُهُمْ كَسَرَابٍ بِقِيعَةٍ يَحْسَبُهُ الظَّمْآنُ مَاءً حَتَّىٰ إِذَا جَاءَهُ لَمْ يَجِدْهُ شَيْئًا وَوَجَدَ اللَّهَ عِنْدَهُ فَوَفَّاهُ حِسَابَهُ ۗ وَاللَّهُ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ (39)

    24|39| As for the unbelievers, their works90 are like a mirage in a vast (sandy) field that the thirsty deems to be water. Until, when he comes to it, he finds it to be nothing,91 but (instead), finds Allah near it. So He paid him his account in full. And Allah is swift at reckoning.

    90. By the “works,” it is the allusion is to good deeds of the unbelievers. They look bright here but worthless in the Hereafter. “I.e., he is bound to realize on Judgment Day that all his supposedly 'good' deeds have been rendered worthless by his deliberate refusal to listen to the voice of truth (Zamakhshari and Razi)” – Asad.
    91. Yusuf Ali writes: “The mirage, of which I have seen several instances in the Arabian deserts and in Egypt, is a strange phenomenon of illusion. It is a trick of our vision. In the language of our Parable, it rejects the Light which shows us the Truth, and deceives us with Falsehood. A lonely traveller in a desert, nearly dying of thirst, sees a broad sheet of water. He goes in that direction, lured on and on, but finds nothing at all. He dies in protracted agony.‏”

    أَوْ كَظُلُمَاتٍ فِي بَحْرٍ لُجِّيٍّ يَغْشَاهُ مَوْجٌ مِنْ فَوْقِهِ مَوْجٌ مِنْ فَوْقِهِ سَحَابٌ ۚ ظُلُمَاتٌ بَعْضُهَا فَوْقَ بَعْضٍ إِذَا أَخْرَجَ يَدَهُ لَمْ يَكَدْ يَرَاهَا ۗ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَجْعَلِ اللَّهُ لَهُ نُورًا فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ نُورٍ (40)

    24|40| Or like darknesses in a deep sea which is covered by a wave above which is a wave, above which are clouds, (layers of) darknesses, some upon others. When he holds out his hand, he can hardly see it.92 And he whom Allah did not assign a Light, for him there is no Light at all.

    92. Ubayy b. Ka`b has said that the example is that of an unbeliever who lives in five-fold darkness: of speech, deeds, entry, exit, and the destination into the Fire (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
    Yusuf Ali adds: “The rebel against Allah finds himself like the man deluded by a mirage. The Truth which he rejected is always with him. The mirage which he accepted leads to his destruction.‏”
    Ibn Kathir writes: These two verses give us the example of two classes of unbelievers: those who think, understand and imagine that they are on something, while they are not. They keep working, hoping to find good results. But when they arrive at the terminal end, they find nothing there. This is how Ubay b. Ka`b, Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah and others understood it. Hence a report of the Sahihayn, which says that the Jews will be asked on the Day of Judgment, “What were you worshipping?” They’d say, “We used to worship `Uzayr, Allah’s son.” They will be told, “You lied. Allah never took a son. (In any case) what do you want now?” They will reply, “Our Lord! We are thirsty, give us a drink.” It will be said, “Can’t you see?” At that point Fire will be made to look like a mirage, waves upon waves (of water). They will rush into it, one upon another. The other verse is speaking of the ignorant masses who blindly follow their leaders: they know nothing, understand nothing.

    أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالطَّيْرُ صَافَّاتٍ ۖ كُلٌّ قَدْ عَلِمَ صَلَاتَهُ وَتَسْبِيحَهُ ۗ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِمَا يَفْعَلُونَ (41)

    24|41| Do you not see93 that whosoever is in the heavens and (in) the earth celebrates Allah’s glory,94 and (so do) the birds with wings outspread?95 Each one has known its prayer and (words of) glorification.96 And Allah is the Knower of what they do.

    93. Mawdudi shows the connection: “It has been pointed out earlier .. that although God is the Light of the whole universe, only those who truly believe and act righteously will benefit from this light. As for all others, even though light abounds around them, they will continue to stumble in darkness. There are many signs that point to this light. Anyone who looks at these signs with his heart’s eye will perceive God at work all around him. But those whose hearts are blind, no matter how much they strain their eyes, their perception will not go beyond biology, zoology, and such other ologies, and they will utterly fail to see God’s hand operating in the universe.”
    94. That is to say that they have been given complete Nur (Alusi).
    95. It might be of some interest to note that the largest birds can have a span of over a meter when they have outspread their wings, while the smallest are a few millimeters across. A few achieve the speed of 300 km an hour while some can fly 12,000 km non-stop. We shall have more to write on this topic, later in this work, Allah willing (Au.).
    96. That is, each one “knows his, her, or its mode of prayer and hallowing” (Majid).
    Mujahid has said that the mention of “prayer” (salah) in the words “Each one has known its prayer and (words of) glorification,” the word 'prater' is for humans while the “(words of) glorification” (tasbeeh] is for others of Allah’s creation (Ibn Jarir).
    Another possibility exists, however, that the active participle of the verb “`alima” be understood as Allah. The translation of the verse then would be, “He (Allah) has known each one’s prayer and (words of) glorification.” Hence He followed up by saying, “And Allah is, of what they do, Knowing.” There have been variant readings too (Qurtubi).

    وَلِلَّهِ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ وَإِلَى اللَّهِ الْمَصِيرُ (42)

    24|42| And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and to Allah is the journey’s end.

    أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يُزْجِي سَحَابًا ثُمَّ يُؤَلِّفُ بَيْنَهُ ثُمَّ يَجْعَلُهُ رُكَامًا فَتَرَى الْوَدْقَ يَخْرُجُ مِنْ خِلَالِهِ وَيُنَزِّلُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مِنْ جِبَالٍ فِيهَا مِنْ بَرَدٍ فَيُصِيبُ بِهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَصْرِفُهُ عَنْ مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۖ يَكَادُ سَنَا بَرْقِهِ يَذْهَبُ بِالْأَبْصَارِ (43)

    24|43| Have you not considered that Allah drives the clouds?97 Then He joins them together,98 then He piles them into a mass99, so that you see the rain100 issuing forth from its midst?!101 And He sends down from the sky, mountains (of clouds) wherein is hail. Then, He strikes therewith whom He will, and turns it away from whom He will. The flash of its lightning well-nigh snatches away the sights.

    وَلِلَّهِ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ وَإِلَى اللَّهِ الْمَصِيرُ (42)

    24|42| And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and to Allah is the journey’s end.

    أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يُزْجِي سَحَابًا ثُمَّ يُؤَلِّفُ بَيْنَهُ ثُمَّ يَجْعَلُهُ رُكَامًا فَتَرَى الْوَدْقَ يَخْرُجُ مِنْ خِلَالِهِ وَيُنَزِّلُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مِنْ جِبَالٍ فِيهَا مِنْ بَرَدٍ فَيُصِيبُ بِهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَصْرِفُهُ عَنْ مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۖ يَكَادُ سَنَا بَرْقِهِ يَذْهَبُ بِالْأَبْصَارِ (43)

    24|43| Have you not considered that Allah drives the clouds?97 Then He joins them together,98 then He piles them into a mass99, so that you see the rain100 issuing forth from its midst?!101 And He sends down from the sky, mountains (of clouds) wherein is hail. Then, He strikes therewith whom He will, and turns it away from whom He will. The flash of its lightning well-nigh snatches away the sights.

    97. Allah (swt) chose a specific word here “yuzji” with its root in “zaja” which is used in the Qur’an in reference to clouds alone. Lisan and Sihah say it is for pushing forward a thing gently. The connotation fits well the cloud formation described below (Au.).
    98. It is commonly stated in science books and unquestionably accepted by the readers that the winds drive the clouds. In a sense this is true. But it is forgotten that the winds normally have the scattering effect and do not collect together to close gaps in gas particles. We have to understand the Qur’anic statement then, as alluding to the role the winds play in condensation of water particles (Au.).
    99. The textual word “rukaam” gives the sense of something piled one upon another: an accurate description of the formation of rain clouds in the atmosphere (Au.).
    100. The word “wadq” has two meanings: rain as well as lightning (Qurtubi). The word was chosen perhaps to express both the meanings, and which fits the context (Au.).
    101. The word in the original for “midst” is “khilaal” which is the plural of “khalal.” It should be strictly translated as “interstices” – as done by Majid – which in turn is explained by the dictionaries as “a small or narrow space or interval between things or parts, esp. one of a series of alternating uniform spaces and parts: e.g., the interstices between the slats of a fence. The word seems to fit wonderfully with the process of rain drops leaving the saws in the final stages of rain formation. We might in a few lines try to understand cloud formation and rains - otherwise an extremely complicated process, a miracle by itself - in the following, taken from several scientific works:
    Cloud formation
    Most people do not know that cloud formation is a miraculous event. Thousands of things have to happen for the clouds to form: and they must happen at the right time and right place, at right temperature. In fact, the process is so complicated, that no prediction can be made of when and where clouds will form. Nevertheless, since rain patterns are surprisingly regular, as against the expected haphazard, it can be concluded that an external Agency is in control of the process. Herewith a short, brief, and therefore an incomplete account to impress on the reader that if not for Allah’s power, vapors rising from the earth could not coalesce into clouds to ultimately fall back as rain, consistently falling in the same place - year after year, following a certain pattern.
    Clouds are formed by the lifting of damp air which cools by expansion under continuously falling pressure. The relative humidity increases until the air approaches saturation. Then condensation occurs on some of the wide variety of aerosol particles present. For continued condensation leading to the formation of cloud droplets, the air must be slightly supersaturated. Among the highly efficient condensation nuclei are the salt particles produced by the evaporation of sea spray, but it appears that particles produced by human-made fires and by natural combustion (for example, forest fires) also make a major contribution. Condensation onto the nuclei continues as rapidly as the water vapor is made available by cooling of the air and gives rise to droplets of the order of 0.01 mm in diameter. These droplets, usually present in concentrations of several thousand per cubic inch, constitute a nonprecipitating water cloud.
    Growing clouds are sustained by upward air currents. Considerable growth of the cloud droplets is necessary if they are to fall through the cloud, survive evaporation in the unsaturated air beneath, and reach the ground as drizzle or rain. Drizzle drops have radii exceeding 0.1 mm, while the largest raindrops are about 0.24 in. (6 mm) across and fall at nearly 10 m/s.
    Cloud droplets are seldom of uniform size for several reasons. Droplets arise on nuclei of various sizes and grow under slightly different conditions of temperature and supersaturation in different parts of the cloud. Some small drops may remain inside the cloud for longer than others before being carried into the drier air outside.
    A droplet appreciably larger than average will (within the cloud) fall faster than the smaller ones, and so will collide and fuse together) with some of those which it overtakes.
    The second method of releasing precipitation can operate only if the cloud top reaches elevations where temperatures are below 32°F (0°C) and the droplets in the upper cloud regions become supercooled.
    In a cloud composed wholly of liquid water, raindrops may grow by coalescence with small droplets. For example, a droplet being carried up from the cloud base would grow as it ascends by sweeping up smaller droplets. When it becomes too heavy to be supported by the vertical upcurrents, the droplet will then fall, continuing to grow by the same process on its downward journey. Finally, if the cloud is sufficiently deep, the droplet will emerge from its base as a raindrop.
    In a dense, vigorous cloud several kilometers deep, the drop may attain its limiting stable diameter (about 0.2 in. or 5 mm) before reaching the cloud base and thus will break up into several large fragments. Each of these m

    يُقَلِّبُ اللَّهُ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَعِبْرَةً لِأُولِي الْأَبْصَارِ (44)

    24|44| Allah alternates the night and the day. Surely, in that is an instructive example for those who have vision.

    وَاللَّهُ خَلَقَ كُلَّ دَابَّةٍ مِنْ مَاءٍ ۖ فَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَمْشِي عَلَىٰ بَطْنِهِ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَمْشِي عَلَىٰ رِجْلَيْنِ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَمْشِي عَلَىٰ أَرْبَعٍ ۚ يَخْلُقُ اللَّهُ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ (45)

    24|45| And Allah created every moving creature from water. So some of them go upon their bellies, and some of them go upon two legs, while some of them go upon four.102 Allah creates what He will. Surely, Allah has power over all things.

    y continue to grow and attain breakup size. The number of raindrops may increase so rapidly in this manner that after a few minutes the accumulated mass of water can no longer be supported by the upper currents and falls out as a heavy shower. The conditions which favor this rapid multiplication of raindrops occur more readily in tropical regions.

    يُقَلِّبُ اللَّهُ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَعِبْرَةً لِأُولِي الْأَبْصَارِ (44)

    24|44| Allah alternates the night and the day. Surely, in that is an instructive example for those who have vision.

    وَاللَّهُ خَلَقَ كُلَّ دَابَّةٍ مِنْ مَاءٍ ۖ فَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَمْشِي عَلَىٰ بَطْنِهِ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَمْشِي عَلَىٰ رِجْلَيْنِ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَمْشِي عَلَىٰ أَرْبَعٍ ۚ يَخْلُقُ اللَّهُ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ (45)

    24|45| And Allah created every moving creature from water. So some of them go upon their bellies, and some of them go upon two legs, while some of them go upon four.102 Allah creates what He will. Surely, Allah has power over all things.

    102. The above does not mean that there are no creations that move on more than four. There could be. There is nothing in the Qur’an to deny it (Qurtubi).

    لَقَدْ أَنْزَلْنَا آيَاتٍ مُبَيِّنَاتٍ ۚ وَاللَّهُ يَهْدِي مَنْ يَشَاءُ إِلَىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ (46)

    24|46| We have indeed sent down signs that make (things) clear. And Allah guides whom He will to a straight path.

    وَيَقُولُونَ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَبِالرَّسُولِ وَأَطَعْنَا ثُمَّ يَتَوَلَّىٰ فَرِيقٌ مِنْهُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ ذَٰلِكَ ۚ وَمَا أُولَٰئِكَ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ (47)

    24|47| And they say,103 ‘We believe in Allah and the Messenger, and we obey.’ But then a party of them turns away after that. Those, they are not believers at all.

    103. Hypocrites are the subject of this verse.

    وَإِذَا دُعُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ لِيَحْكُمَ بَيْنَهُمْ إِذَا فَرِيقٌ مِنْهُمْ مُعْرِضُونَ (48)

    24|48| When they are invited to Allah and His Messenger so that he might judge between them,104 then lo, a party of them is swerving away.105

    104. Mawdudi comments: “These words clearly establish that the Messenger’s verdict is the same as God’s and the Messenger’s command is the same as God’s. Likewise, when someone is called to the Messenger (peace be upon him), this call is not merely to the Messenger. In fact it amounts to calling him to both God and the Messenger.”
    105. It is reported that the revelation of this passage was occasioned by a dispute between a hypocrite (Bishr or Bashir) and a Jew. The Jew invited him to the Prophet for judgment. The hypocrite suggested that they rather go to Ka`b b. al-Ashraf. Finally they decided on presenting the case to the Prophet who judged in favor of the Jew. But the hypocrite was not satisfied. He said, “Let us go to `Umar.” When they went to `Umar and explained their case, the Jew added, “We have been to the Prophet and were judged in this manner.” `Umar said, “Is that so. OK then, stay put until I come back.” He came out of his house with a sword and struck him dead. Then he said, “That’s what we do with those who are not satisfied with the judgment of Allah and His Prophet.” It seems Jibril remarked that `Umar had distinguished between falsehood and truth, and since then he came to be known as Farooq (Alusi, under verse 47).
    Ibn Hajr adds in Fut-h: Although the (above) story comes through a weak chain, it gathers strength from other sources. It is said that it was the Prophet who first referred to `Umar as Farooq (Kitab al-Musaqat).
    Mawdudi adds: “Here people are urged to willingly accept the judgments made in accordance with the Qur’an and the Sunnah. It is quite obvious that this requirement is not restricted to the time of the Prophet (peace be on him) alone. Instead, this is something that will always be required of Muslims, whether they lived in the time of the Prophet (peace be on him) or in any subsequent period.”
    Hasan al-Busri has in fact said, “He who is summoned by a Muslim ruler, but fails to turn up is a wrong-doer devoid of all rights” (Ibn Kathir and others).

    وَإِنْ يَكُنْ لَهُمُ الْحَقُّ يَأْتُوا إِلَيْهِ مُذْعِنِينَ (49)

    24|49| But if the right be theirs, they go to him submitted.106

    106. “Dha`ana” in Arabic is actually for quick obedience, or hastening to obey (Lisan: Au.). Hence Mujahid said that it means they hasten (to the Prophet) – Ibn Jarir.
    Yusuf Ali comments: “The Hypocrites only wanted to go to the judge who they thought was likely to give judgment in their favour. If their case was incontestable, and justice was on their side, they readily came to the Prophet, knowing that he was just and would judge in their favour, even against his own adherents. But if they had done wrong, an impartial judge was not to their taste. They would rather go to some one who would tip the balance in their favour! This form of selfishness and iniquity was not confined to the Hypocrites of Madinah. It is common in all ages, and should be suppressed.‏”

    إِنَّمَا كَانَ قَوْلَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ إِذَا دُعُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ لِيَحْكُمَ بَيْنَهُمْ أَنْ يَقُولُوا سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا ۚ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ (51)

    24|51| The only saying of the believers when they are called to Allah and His Messenger so that he could judge between them is to say, ‘We hear and we obey.’107 They indeed – they are the prosperers.

    107. “.. i.e., without any mental reservation. The term qawl (lit., ‘saying’) has here the sense of a genuine spiritual ‘response’ in contrast to the mere lip-service alluded to in verse 47 above” (Asad).
    Mawdudi again, “Regardless of the category to which such person belongs (of the doubters, hypocrites, etc.: Au.), he is undoubtedly steeped in error. Anyone who holds these views (as expressed in these verses: Au.) and still claims to be a believer and a member of the Muslim society and who seeks to derive benefits from this association is indeed a cheat, a betrayer of trust, a fake and perfidious person. He also wrongs himself because his constant deception and cheating make him the embodiment of the worst moral traits. He also wrongs his fellow-Muslims who take him at his word, consider him to be a part of the Muslim society, and establish a myriad of social, cultural and political relations with him.”

    وَمَنْ يُطِعِ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَيَخْشَ اللَّهَ وَيَتَّقْهِ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَائِزُونَ (52)

    24|52| And whoever obeyed Allah and His Messenger, feared Allah, and was conscious of Him, those - they are the triumphant.108

    108. So, apparently, this is a simple formula: Whoever obeyed Allah (by following the Qur’an), His Messenger (in terms of following the Sunnah), and feared Allah for what of the sins he committed in the past, and conscientiously avoided them during the rest of his life, will be triumphant.

    وَأَقْسَمُوا بِاللَّهِ جَهْدَ أَيْمَانِهِمْ لَئِنْ أَمَرْتَهُمْ لَيَخْرُجُنَّ ۖ قُلْ لَا تُقْسِمُوا ۖ طَاعَةٌ مَعْرُوفَةٌ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ (53)

    24|53| And they swore their strongest oath by Allah (that) if you ordered them, they would surely go forth. Say, ‘Do not swear. (The quality of your) Obedience is well known.109 Surely, Allah is Aware of what you do.’

    109. That is, your obedience is well-known as mere lip service (Ibn Jarir, Alusi and others). This opinion is attributed to Mujahid. Another possible meaning is, “Let your obedience be identified, (as of good intentions); swearing is unnecessary” (Razi, Qurtubi).
    “Alternatively,” adds Mawdudi, “it might mean that the obedience and surrender to God required of believers is of a well-known quality. Those who are truly obedient to God stand apart from others, their distinctiveness can be perceived by everyone. Their conduct leaves no room whatsoever for any doubt that might prompt them to swear so as to convince others about the sincerity of their faith.”
    Asad writes: “This is an allusion to the ephemeral, self-deceiving enthusiasm of the half-hearted and their supposed readiness to ‘self-sacrifice’, in contrast to their obvious reluctance to live up to the message of the Qur’an in their day-to-day concerns.”

    قُلْ أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ ۖ فَإِنْ تَوَلَّوْا فَإِنَّمَا عَلَيْهِ مَا حُمِّلَ وَعَلَيْكُمْ مَا حُمِّلْتُمْ ۖ وَإِنْ تُطِيعُوهُ تَهْتَدُوا ۚ وَمَا عَلَى الرَّسُولِ إِلَّا الْبَلَاغُ الْمُبِينُ (54)

    24|54| Say, ‘Obey Allah and obey the Messenger.’ But if you turn away, then upon him is only what is placed upon him,110 and upon you only what is placed upon you.111 However, if you obey him, you will be guided. And there is nothing upon the Messenger except clear deliverance.112

    110. That is, upon him is only the duty of delivery of the message (Ibn Jarir).
    111. That is, upon you is the duty of acceptance and obedience (Ibn Jarir).
    112. Yusuf Ali offers his comment: “If you disobey Allah’s commands as explained by His Prophet, you are not going to be forced. The Prophet’s mission is to train your will and explain clearly all the implications of your conduct. The responsibility for your conduct rests entirely on yourselves.”

    وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنْكُمْ وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَيَسْتَخْلِفَنَّهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ كَمَا اسْتَخْلَفَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ وَلَيُمَكِّنَنَّ لَهُمْ دِينَهُمُ الَّذِي ارْتَضَىٰ لَهُمْ وَلَيُبَدِّلَنَّهُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ خَوْفِهِمْ أَمْنًا ۚ يَعْبُدُونَنِي لَا يُشْرِكُونَ بِي شَيْئًا ۚ وَمَنْ كَفَرَ بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ (55)

    24|55| Allah has promised those among you who believed and did righteous deeds (that) He shall surely make them succeed (in authority) in the earth even as He made those succeed who were before them, and (that) He shall surely establish for them their religion - the one which He has approved for them, and that He shall surely give them in exchange, after their fear, peace (and security)113 – they shall worship Me, not associating aught with Me.114 And whoever disbelieves after that,115 those then, they are the defiantly disobedient (ones).116

    113. Abu al-`Aliyyah said, the Prophet (saws) spent ten years in Makkah in a state of fear: calling to Allah in open and secret. Then he was ordered to move to Madinah where he and his Companions remained in fear for long, wearing their arms day and night. So someone remarked, “Will a day come when we will be in peace and lay aside our arms?” At that the Prophet said, “It will not be too long before one of you will sit amongst a large company, unguarded, without any steel around.” And Allah revealed this verse (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Qurtubi, Shawkani). The reports are in Ibn al-Mundhir, Tabarani (in his Awsat) and Hakim who declared it creditable (Alusi).
    Yusuf Ali adds: “If this verse was revealed about the time of the Battle of the Ditch (Khandaq), also called the Battle of the Confederates (Ahzab) A.H. 4-5, we can imagine the comfort it gave to the Muslims who were besieged in Madinah by a force ten times their number. The Muslims then lived in a state of great suspense and danger, and under arms for days on end. (See xxxiii. 9-20). The security and authority they were promised came to them subsequently in abundant measures.‏”
    114. Asad provides the subtle connection between different parts of the verse: “I.e., the believer’s freedom of fear is a direct outcome of his intellectual and emotional refusal to attribute to anyone or anything but God the power to shape his destiny.”
    Most commentators are of the opinion that this promise was made true during the Caliphate of the four Rightly Guided Caliphs. Some would exclude the period of `Ali when political troubles within the Islamic polity began to surface. But politics apart, `Ali’s period too was of such quality, that there is no reason to consider it significantly different from the earlier period. It is another thing that troubles began right after `Uthman’s murder. But that was the cause, while the troubles that surfaced during `Ali’s period, were the effect (Au.).
    Shafi` writes in above reference: Baghawi has reported through his chain of narration the following speech of `Abdullah ibn Salam, which he delivered when he sensed that `Uthman could be murdered, “Allah’s angels have been guarding your city from the time the Prophet came down to it. It has continued down to this day. By Allah, if you killed `Uthman, these angels will return and never come back. By Allah whoever of you took part in his killing, will be raised with a severed hand. Know it that Allah’s sword has been in the sheath. Once it is brought out, it will never be put back, for, whenever a Prophet is killed, seventy-thousand men have to lose life in compensation and when a Khalifah is killed thirty-five thousand people are killed in compensation.”
    Qurtubi however, who reports Ibn al-`Arabiyy of the same thoughts, does not believe that istikhlaf in the land should be understood in the political sense. As Ibn al-`Arabiyy wrote, the promise was open to embrace the Nubuwwah, the Khilafah, the establishment of the Call to Islam and the Shari`ah in general and it was fulfilled through everyone who could make any contribution including jurists, the Imams and others. Also, it was not bound to a period, except that its high point and apex was achieved at the time of the Khilafah al-Rashidah, `Ali’s period not excluded. For, a couple of internal battles that mark `Ali’s period, did not have any effect on the general peace and progress that prevailed. Those were only ripples in the flow of the Islamic tide.
    Herewith, Ibn Kathir’s somewhat shortened remarks: The fulfillment of the promise had begun to take shape even during the Prophet’s time, culminating in the 20th year after his death, marked by `Uthman’s murder. During his own time, Islam had spread to every nook and corner of the Arabian Peninsula, with most rulers embracing Islam or paying tribute. And, in acknowledgment of his position in Arabia, the rulers of Rome, Egypt, Alexandria, `Oman, and Habasha had sent him gifts. His successor Abu Bakr (who would not agree to a single command of Islam broken), first took control of the entire Peninsula and then extended the rule to Syrian regions. He was inspired to select `Umar ibn al-Khattab as his successor. He proved to be just the right man for the right job, establishing justice in the entire Islamic world, laying an order never heard of before. Egypt, rest of Syria and Persia also fell to his excellent rule. Kisra and Qaysar retreated to the farthest points of their empires, now reduced to kingdoms, or maybe fiefdoms, and their wealth was distributed among the people. A new era of peace, justice, freedom and confidence began. During `Uthman’s reign, who succeeded `Umar, the Islamic rule was further expanded to cover North Africa, several large islands of the Mediterranean Sea, and in the East to Chinese territories through Khurasan and other West Asian regions. Kisra was finally killed during his time and Allah’s promise expressed at the tongue of His Prophet came true. He had said (Muslim), “Allah folded together the earth for me and I looked at the east and the west of it. The dominion of my Ummah will reach the places I was shown.” But then, as we know, `Uthman was murdered and decline began.
    115. Abu Sha`tha’ reported, “I was sitting with Hudhayfah (b. al-Yaman) and `Abdullah (ibn Mas`ud) when Hudhayfah remarked, ‘Hypocrisy has departed. Hypocrisy was during the time of the Prophet. Now it’s going to be disbelief after belief.’ Ibn Mas`ud asked, ‘Why do you say that?’ Hudhayfah replied with this and the pervious verse. Ibn Mas`ud laughed. Sho`bah (the next reporter) met Abu Sha`tha after some time. He asked him as to why Ibn Mas`ud had laughed. He replied, ‘I don’t know. A man laughs both at something pleasing, as well as something displeasing. So I do not know why he laughed.’”
    Abul `Aliyyah however believed that the disbelief is to be understood as not disbelief in Islam but rather, ungratefulness to the blessings of Allah. Accordingly, it is said that the situation of complete peace remained until `Uthman was murdered. With his murder fear began to prevail (Ibn Jarir).
    116. This is also apparent in our history. The Companions were the most committed followers of Allah’s commands. The promise to them then, was fulfilled in its complete sense. But weakness began to prevail after them, and, accordingly, the victories of those who fell short in the observation of certain commandments, also fell short in certain respects. Nonetheless (the promise remains true in reference to those who remain true to the commandments: Au.). In a well-reported tradition, the Prophet said,

    لا تَزَالُ طَائِفَةٌ مِنْ أُمَّتِي قَائِمَةً بِأَمْرِ اللَّهِ لا يَضُرُّهُمْ مَنْ خَذَلَهُمْ حَتَّى يَأْتِيَ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ وَهُمْ ظَاهِرُونَ عَلَى النَّاسِ

    “A group of my Ummah will remain on Truth overcoming (opposition). Those who forsake them or oppress them will not be able to do them any harm – until the Day of Judgment” (Ibn Kathir, summarized).
    Sayyid writes: “Allah’s promise to those of the followers of the Prophet who believe and do righteous deeds is that He will make them succeed in the earth, that He will establish for them the religion that He has approved for them, and that He will accord them peace after fear. Such is the promise. Allah’s promise is true. And Allah’s promise has to be fulfilled. And Allah does not break his promise. What then is the reality of faith and what is the true meaning of succession?
    “The reality of the faith after which Allah’s promise comes true is a huge reality that covers all of the human endeavor and which directs the entire human endeavors (to a goal). It does not take its place in the heart but it begins to announce its presence in the form of deeds, activities, frameworks and edifices: all of them directed to Allah; the faithful not desiring anything but the approval of Allah. Faith then is Allah’s obedience and submission to Him in everything minor or major. The inner self’s desires do not remain active along with it, nor the low cravings of the heart, nor the inclinations of the natural kind – except that it follows what the Prophet brought from Allah.
    “It is that faith then (alluded to here) which embraces the whole of man, including his inmost thoughts, the recesses of his heart, the longings of the soul, the inclinations of his nature, the movements of his body organs, the gestures of his limbs, and his conduct with his Lord, his near ones, and the mankind in general – propelling himself with all these towards Allah. This is well represented in Allah’s words in the same verse that gives the reason for succession and establishment in the earth: ‘They shall worship Me, not associating any with Me.’ Association then has several openings and colors. And to be turning to other than Allah either physically or sub-consciously is one of the several kinds of association with Allah.
    “This faith then is the way of the life, whole of it. It includes everything that Allah has ordered. And Allah’s commandments include obtaining of the means (for fulfillment of the commands), getting ready the equipment, employment of the material means, and preparation for bearing the great Trust in the earth, the Trust of Khilafah.
    “And what is the reality of the succession? Of the Khilafah?
    “Well, it is not the possession, or the subjugation, or triumph, or rule.. All of these are only there as a condition of utilization for the reformation and construction, and for realization of the program that Allah has laid down for humankind, so that they can follow it and so that they can attain through it the highest position delineated for them in the earth, that which is deserving of a creation that Allah has honored.
    “Succession in the earth (istikhlaf) is the ability to build it and improve it, not the ability to destroy and corrupt. It is the power to administer justice and achieve contentment, not the power to oppress and subjugate. It is the ability to raise above: the humans and the human systems, and not to lower - at the individual and social level - to the levels of the animals.
    “This then is the istikhlaf that Allah has promised those who believe and do righteous deeds .. He has promised them this succession in the earth just as He allowed succession to the believers and righteous before them – so that they can realize the right way that Allah has opened for them, and establish the justice that He has willed, and walk up the way that assures their rise to the heights that He has decreed for them the day He created them. For, those who have arrogated power corrupt the land, spread rebellion and injustice and who take them down to the level of the animals. These are not the successors. They are being tried in their situation, or others are being tried by them: those whom they have overcome, for a wisdom that Allah has decreed.
    “A clue to this understanding of the succession is Allah’s statement that follows it, “And He shall establish for them the religion that He has approved for them.” Establishment of the religion will follow its establishment in the hearts, as its establishment is accomplished in life and its affairs. It is consequent to this that Allah has promised the establishment of their succession in the earth, and that He will make the religion that He has approved for them to overcome others on the earth: this religion of theirs which commands reformation, justice, and overcoming the desire for base earthly things. It commands building of this earth and the utilization of that which Allah has placed therein: the wealth, provision, and power, all directed with great fervor towards (obtaining) Allah’s (approval).”

    وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ (56)

    24|56| And observe the Prayer, give out the Zakah, and obey the Messenger – haply so you are shown mercy.

    لَا تَحْسَبَنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مُعْجِزِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ وَمَأْوَاهُمُ النَّارُ ۖ وَلَبِئْسَ الْمَصِيرُ (57)

    24|57| Think not the unbelievers are able to frustrate (Allah) in the earth. Their abode is the Fire, and surely, an evil destination.

    يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لِيَسْتَأْذِنْكُمُ الَّذِينَ مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ وَالَّذِينَ لَمْ يَبْلُغُوا الْحُلُمَ مِنْكُمْ ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ ۚ مِنْ قَبْلِ صَلَاةِ الْفَجْرِ وَحِينَ تَضَعُونَ ثِيَابَكُمْ مِنَ الظَّهِيرَةِ وَمِنْ بَعْدِ صَلَاةِ الْعِشَاءِ ۚ ثَلَاثُ عَوْرَاتٍ لَكُمْ ۚ لَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَلَا عَلَيْهِمْ جُنَاحٌ بَعْدَهُنَّ ۚ طَوَّافُونَ عَلَيْكُمْ بَعْضُكُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمُ الْآيَاتِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ (58)

    24|58| Believers,117 let those your right hands own and those of you who have not attained puberty, seek permission of you (before entering) at three times: before the dawn Prayer, at noon when you lay aside your (outer) garments (for rest),118 and after the night Prayer - three (occasions) of privacy for you.119 There is no blame upon you nor upon them beyond these (occasions), some of you going about in rounds upon others. Thus does Allah make clear to you the verses, and Allah is All-knowing, All-Wise.

    117. Asad provides relief to those who see incoherence in Qur’anic passages. He writes: “In pursuance of the Qur’anic principle that the social and individual – as well as the spiritual and material – aspects of human life form one indivisible whole and cannot, therefore, be dealt with independently of one another, the discourse returns to the consideration of some of the rules of healthy social behavior enunciated in the earlier parts of this surah. The following passage takes up and elaborates the theme of the individual’s right to privacy, already touched upon in verses 27-29 above.”
    118. The word used for noon-time is “zaheerah”, which is applied, strictly speaking, to hot summer afternoons, implying perhaps, that only such needs might be legitimate for removal of outer garments (Au.).
    119. The implied meaning is that children must be trained in manners, etiquette and respect for the commandments of Islam (Razi).

    وَإِذَا بَلَغَ الْأَطْفَالُ مِنْكُمُ الْحُلُمَ فَلْيَسْتَأْذِنُوا كَمَا اسْتَأْذَنَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ (59)

    24|59| And when your children attain puberty, then let them (also) seek permission, as those sought permission who were before them.120 Thus does Allah make clear His verses, and Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.

    120. In other words, children and household workers are required to seek the permission of the master and mistress of the house before entering their private quarters at three times: before dawn, afternoon (which is the siesta time) and after nightfall when everyone has retired to his chambers. However, when children grow to manhood, they too must seek permission of the masters and mistresses entering upon them at any time of the day. And, by extension, permission must be sought of all those who have reached puberty before one enters into their private chambers (Zamakhshari).
    Sa`id b. Jubayr reported that Ibn `Abbas said, “There are three verses that people have given up practicing: (a) This present verse, (b) ‘If there appear at the time of division (distant) relatives, orphans or (other) poor persons, make provision for them thereof (4: 8),’ and (c) ‘Surely, the most noble in the sight of Allah are the most pious (49: 13).’” – Ibn Kathir and others.
    We have quoted the above to give an inkling of the level of application of the Qur’anic injunctions at the time of the Followers (tabe`iyyuun)- these were the only three directives that they seem to have neglected (Au.).

    وَالْقَوَاعِدُ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ اللَّاتِي لَا يَرْجُونَ نِكَاحًا فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْهِنَّ جُنَاحٌ أَنْ يَضَعْنَ ثِيَابَهُنَّ غَيْرَ مُتَبَرِّجَاتٍ بِزِينَةٍ ۖ وَأَنْ يَسْتَعْفِفْنَ خَيْرٌ لَهُنَّ ۗ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ (60)

    24|60| And women of post-menstrual age121 who have no hope of marriage - there is no blame upon them that they should lay aside their (outer) garments, (but) not wantonly displaying adornment. Yet, that they should restrain themselves is better for them.122 And Allah is All-hearing, All-knowing.

    121. The textual word is “qawa`id” (sing. qa`id, just as hamil: Qurtubi), and not qa`idat (sing. qa`idah). The latter would have been used if the allusion was to those women who have taken to sitting, or the squatting women. But, qa`id is used for a woman who has reached her post-menstrual period and hence has lost interest in sex, and in whom others have lots interest; in consequence, whose company is not sought after by men - Zamakshari, Razi, Qurtubi and others.
    Ibn Qutaybah however has said that the word is so rooted (in qa`ida) because past a certain age, women spend most of their time sitting (Sabuni).
    122. That is, there is no sin upon such women as have passed the age of interest in sex, that they remove the outer garment with which they cover their heads or shoulders, within the confines of the house or the family quarters. However, if they wore them on, it would be better for them (Ibn Jarir).

    لَيْسَ عَلَى الْأَعْمَىٰ حَرَجٌ وَلَا عَلَى الْأَعْرَجِ حَرَجٌ وَلَا عَلَى الْمَرِيضِ حَرَجٌ وَلَا عَلَىٰ أَنْفُسِكُمْ أَنْ تَأْكُلُوا مِنْ بُيُوتِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ آبَائِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ إِخْوَانِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ أَخَوَاتِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ أَعْمَامِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ عَمَّاتِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ أَخْوَالِكُمْ أَوْ بُيُوتِ خَالَاتِكُمْ أَوْ مَا مَلَكْتُمْ مَفَاتِحَهُ أَوْ صَدِيقِكُمْ ۚ لَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَنْ تَأْكُلُوا جَمِيعًا أَوْ أَشْتَاتًا ۚ فَإِذَا دَخَلْتُمْ بُيُوتًا فَسَلِّمُوا عَلَىٰ أَنْفُسِكُمْ تَحِيَّةً مِنْ عِنْدِ اللَّهِ مُبَارَكَةً طَيِّبَةً ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمُ الْآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ (61)

    24|61| There is no restriction upon the blind, nor upon the lame any restriction, nor upon the sick any restriction, nor upon yourselves that you eat of your (own) houses,123 or the houses of your fathers, or the houses of your mothers, or the houses of your brothers, or the houses of your sisters, or the houses of your paternal uncles, or the houses of your paternal aunts, or the houses of your maternal uncles, or the houses of your maternal aunts, or of those (places) whereof you possess the keys, or (the house) of a friend of yours.124 There is no blame upon you that you eat all together or separately.125 But when you enter houses, send greetings of peace upon one another – a greeting from Allah, blessed126 and goodly.127 Thus does Allah make clear to you the verses haply you will ponder.128

    123. “In the consensus of all the authorities, the expression ‘your houses) implies in this context to ‘your children’s houses’, since all that belongs to a person may be said to belong, morally, to his parents as well” (Asad).
    The Prophet told a man who inquired about what his father could take from his wealth,
    أَنْتَ وَمَالُكَ لأَبِيكَ
    “You and your wealth are your father’s” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir), although the hadith has been understood to mean differently too (Qurtubi).
    124. One of the several opinions about this verse is that the people bore a kind of prejudice against the blind, the sick, the lame and other disabled persons, not too willing to share dinner tables with them. So Allah (swt) revealed this verse. There are a few other opinions, such as, many super-sensitive people thought that if they ate with the disabled, they, the disabled, might not get their full share because of their various disabilities, entailing the questioning of the table-companions, and so they avoided eating with them altogether. Another opinion has it that some people visited the houses of their kindred: brothers, sisters, etc., but refrained from eating there when offered on grounds that the master of the house was not present. So Allah removed this encumbrance by revealing this verse. Yet another opinion is that sometimes a man had a lame or blind person as a visitor and wished to feed him, but could not do it himself. So he took him to the house of his father, son, etc., to be fed there. But both, the guest brought on (the handicapped) as well as the acting guest, (the man who took them), felt that perhaps it was not right to do such things and so Allah revealed this verse.
    But the most likely opinion (according to Ibn Jarir) seems to be that which is reported by Zuhri. He said that the Companions of the Prophet handed over the keys to their houses when they left for campaigns, to the blind, the lame, etc., allowing them free entry into the houses and partaking of anything within them. But the trustees refrained from entering their houses in their absence and so Allah revealed this verse (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari [in parts], Razi, Ibn Kathir).
    In all cases, the condition attached is that the masters of the houses, do not mind to what is eaten of their houses. This is evidenced by the Prophet’s words who said, “A Muslim’s property is not lawful (to another) except by his good will (Qurtubi).
    The use of the word sadeeq in the text requires a line or two of explanation. Firstly, friend of English is indeed not equivalent of sadeeq of Arabic. Sadeeq has its root in sadaqa which means, to be true, sincere, honest, deal truthfully, etc. Sadeeq is therefore, someone with whom the relationship is that of truthfulness, sincerity and trust to the absolute degree. In contrast, a friend is a mere acquaintance of some time, a bit close, but not necessarily one to the other absolutely truthful, sincere or honest (Au.).
    Zamakhshari reports that according to Ibn `Abbas and Ja`far al-Sadiq, sadeeq seems to hold a special position in Islamic thought and culture.
    (According to Zamakhshari and Razi, the word is used both as a singular as well as a plural noun [just as `aduww: Qurtubi] – although another word exists for the plural: asdiqa’: Au.).
    Those in Hellfire will ignore many others, but will mention those they will miss most: asdiqa’. They will say (26: 100-101),

    {فَمَا لَنَا مِنْ شَافِعِينَ (100) وَلَا صَدِيقٍ حَمِيمٍ } [الشعراء: 100، 101]


    "(Today) We do not have an intercessor (by our side), nor a warm sadeeq.” And, it is reported of Hasan (al-Busri) that once he entered his house to find his friends falling upon a basket of tasty victuals he had placed under his bed. They were cleaning it off. It is said that Hasan’s face brightened up. He smiled happily and said, “That is how we found them.” That is, explains Zamakhshari, that is how he found the Badri Companions he had met: one of whom would enter the house of his friend and ask the maid to bring out his personal purse. He would take from it what he wished. When the master returned and was informed of what his sadeeq had done, he would be so pleased that he’d free the slave-girl.
    125. Once again there are a variety of opinions but the one most likely to be correct is that some of the Arabs, like Banu Kinanah, never ate their food unless they had someone to share with, while there were Arabs who never ate with others. Allah removed the inconvenience both ways: they were free to eat together in groups, or individually – no restriction need be there either way (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    The verse is of course speaking of the legality. Otherwise, it is preferable that food be eaten together. Ahmad has a report which says that once someone complained to the Prophet,

    إِنَّا نَأْكُلُ وَلا نَشْبَعُ ، قَالَ : فَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَفْتَرِقُونَ ، قَالُوا : نَعَمْ ، قَالَ : فَاجْتَمِعُوا عَلَى طَعَامِكُمْ ، وَاذْكُرُوا اسْمَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ يُبَارَكْ لَكُمْ فِيهِ

    "We but do not feel satiated." He replied, “Perhaps you eat separately." They said, "Yes." He said, "Get together over your food, pronounce Allah’s name, you will be blessed therewith.”
    According to another report in Ahmad, Abu Da’ud and Ibn Majah, the Prophet said,

    كلوا جميعًا ولا تَفَرّقُوا؛ فإن البركة مع الجماعة

    “Eat together. Do not separate out, for blessing is with the group” (Ibn Kathir).
    126. Linguistically, “barakah” is for growth and increase (Sabuni).
    127. A hadith can be quoted in support of the verse. Anas says,

    خدمت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم عشر سنين فما قال لي في شيء فعلته لم فعلته ولا قال لي في شيء تركته لم تركته ، وكنت واقفاً على رأس النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أصب الماء على يديه فرفع رأسه إلي وقال : " ألا أعلمك ثلاث خصال تنتفع بهن؟ " قلت بأبي وأمي أنت يا رسول الله بلى ، فقال " من لقيت من أمتي فسلم عليهم يطل عمرك ، وإذا دخلت بيتاً فسلم عليهم يكثر خير بيتك ، وصل صلاة الضحى فإنها صلاة ( الأبرار ) الأوابين "

    “I served the Prophet ten years. He never reproached me over a thing I did as to why I did, and never questioned me about a thing I didn’t do as to why I did not. Once I was by his side pouring water on his hand while he made ablution, he raised his head and said, ‘May I not teach you three things that might profit you?’ I said, ‘By my parents, yes, O Messenger of Allah.’ He said, ‘Whomsoever of my Ummah you come across, greet him in the Islamic manner, Allah will lengthen your life. When you enter into a house, greet them Islamically; the good of your house will be increased. And, do the Duha Prayer, for it is the Prayer of those who turn (to Allah) often’” (Razi).
    Although its various parts are found in different collections as pieces, but this report is not found as one whole in any well-known collection.
    128. Asad comments: “The whole of verse 61 is so highly elliptic a form that disagreements as to its purport have always been unavoidable. However, if all the explanations offered by the early commentators are taken into consideration, we find that their common denominator is the view that the innermost purport of this passage is a stress on the brotherhood of all believers, expressed in a call to mutual charity, compassion, and good-fellowship and hence, the avoidance of all unnecessary formalities in their mutual relationship.”

    إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَإِذَا كَانُوا مَعَهُ عَلَىٰ أَمْرٍ جَامِعٍ لَمْ يَذْهَبُوا حَتَّىٰ يَسْتَأْذِنُوهُ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَأْذِنُونَكَ أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ ۚ فَإِذَا اسْتَأْذَنُوكَ لِبَعْضِ شَأْنِهِمْ فَأْذَنْ لِمَنْ شِئْتَ مِنْهُمْ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمُ اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (62)

    24|62| Believers are only those who believed in Allah and His Messenger; and when they are with him over a collective affair,129 do not depart until they have sought his permission.130 Surely, those who seek your permission, they are the ones who believe in Allah and His Messenger. Therefore, if they seek your permission for an affair of theirs, then give permission to whosoever of them you will, and ask Allah’s forgiveness for them.131 Surely, Allah is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.

    129. Lit., an affair that collects people together (Majid).
    130. Thus, after having instructed the believers about how to enter upon a people, by seeking their leave, Allah now instructs them the etiquette of departing when they have to. He began by instructing how to behave when leaving the Prophet’s company. It is by seeking permission to leave. (And, of course, if it happens to be a person of authority, then he has the right to say no: Au.). The Prophet (saws) added clarification by saying, as in a hadith of Abu Da’ud,

    كُلُوا جَمِيعًا وَلاَ تَفَرَّقُوا فَإِنَّ الْبَرَكَةَ مَعَ الْجَمَاعَةِ

    “When one of you enters upon a gathering, let him say Salam, and when he wishes to leave, let him say Salam: neither the first nor the second is more important than the other.” The report is also in Nasa’i and Tirmidhi who rated it Hasan (Ibn Kathir).
    The verse, “Believers are only those who believe in Allah and His Messenger; and when they are with him over a collective affair, do not depart until they have sought his permission” might sound a bit intriguing, especially the adjective “only” at the beginning. Qurtubi gives us the clue. He writes: A man’s faith could not be said to be complete without he paying full attention to what the Prophet was saying, since what he was saying was meant to complete (or improve) an affair. His slipping away would mean he was trying to spoil what the Prophet was trying to improve.
    The instruction however, notes Shafi`, was when the Prophet had collected them. If they had come on their own, they were free to leave whenever they wished, which they often did.
    131. At this point “Ask Allah’s forgiveness for them” requires an explanation and Alusi provides us: Because, their seeking permission – however legitimate – could have had traces of the preference of this world over that of the affairs of the Hereafter, which needed to be sought forgiveness for.

    لَا تَجْعَلُوا دُعَاءَ الرَّسُولِ بَيْنَكُمْ كَدُعَاءِ بَعْضِكُمْ بَعْضًا ۚ قَدْ يَعْلَمُ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ يَتَسَلَّلُونَ مِنْكُمْ لِوَاذًا ۚ فَلْيَحْذَرِ الَّذِينَ يُخَالِفُونَ عَنْ أَمْرِهِ أَنْ تُصِيبَهُمْ فِتْنَةٌ أَوْ يُصِيبَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ (63)

    24|63| Place not the Messenger’s summon among yourselves (on the same footing) as the summon of some of you to others.132 Allah has known those who slip away from you surreptitiously.133 Let those then who go against his command beware, lest a tribulation strikes them134 or a painful punishment afflicts them.135

    132. There are two opinions. One of them treats “du`a” of the text not as summons but as “prayers” or “supplication.” What they thought it meant is, do not treat the Prophet’s supplication against you like you would each other’s. If he prayed against you, you would suffer. Therefore, be careful not to provoke him to supplicating against you. A second opinion treats the word “du`a” as “term of address.” That is, do not address the Prophet coarsely or disrespectfully, such as to say, “O Muhammad!” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Ibn Jarir’s preference is the former interpretation in view of the context. When summoned to a meeting, the Companions were not to slip away using another as cover – as the hypocrites did. If they did so, the Prophet’s anger would be provoked against such of them entailing their destruction.
    Imam Razi however prefers the meaning as reflected in the translation (and which Ibn al-Qayyim also mentions as possible). That is, do not treat the Prophet’s summon as some of you summoning others, those others responding or not responding.
    133. This has reference to the hypocrites who could not bear to sit long in the Prophet’s assembly, and slipped away taking someone’s cover.
    The cause of revelation could be more than one. Ibn Is-haq, Ibn al-Mundhir and Bayhaqi (in his Dala’il) have reported that when the Arab confederates led by the Quraysh came down in a mass to attack Madinah, the Prophet (saws) was prompted to dig a trench in the north of Madinah. His Companions helped him in the digging. But the hypocrites evinced their weaknesses. A Muslim for example, if he had to leave temporarily, would find a replacement for himself and then seek the Prophet’s permission to go. And, when allowed to go, he would return as fast as he could. But the hypocrites would slip away from behind the lines without seeking the Prophet’s permission and without he ever knowing that they had slipped away (Qurtubi, Shawkani).
    Qurtubi adds: In fact, when, during that campaign, `Umar sought permission to leave for Madinah for a while, the Prophet said, “You may go, for, by Allah, you are not a hypocrite.” Those words were meant for the hypocrites. (In practice, the Companions sought the Prophet’s permission on other occasions too: Au.).
    When ‘Umar intended an `Umrah, he sought the Prophet’s permission who responded by saying, “O Hafs’ father. Do not forget us in your supplication.”
    134. By the tribulation, the allusion is to the seal placed upon the hearts, so that guidance cannot penetrate (Ibn Jarir).
    Mawdudi gives it a wider connotation. He writes: “The word fitnah used in this verse has been interpreted by Ja`far al Sadiq to mean the ‘dominance of wrong-doers.’ If Muslims disobey the commands of the Messenger (peace be upon him) they will be subjected to the yoke of unjust and oppressive rulers. While this is one of the forms of fitnah, it is by no means the only form. For fitnah might manifest itself in countless other ways such as mutual dissension and feuding, moral degeneration, the dissipation of collective cohesion, the spread of internal disorder and chaos, the breakdown of the material power of a people and its subjugation by others.”
    135. The words, “Let those then who go against his command beware” have a wide application. The deeds of the followers of the Prophet would be judged with his deeds as the criteria. What matched would be accepted, while what did not, would be rejected. The Prophet said (Muslim, Fut-h),

    مَنْ أَحْدَثَ فِى أَمْرِنَا مَا لَيْسَ مِنْهُ فَهُوَ رَدٌّ

    “Whoever brought in our affair (i.e. Islam) that which is not of it, stands rejected” (Ibn Kathir).

    أَلَا إِنَّ لِلَّهِ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ قَدْ يَعْلَمُ مَا أَنْتُمْ عَلَيْهِ وَيَوْمَ يُرْجَعُونَ إِلَيْهِ فَيُنَبِّئُهُمْ بِمَا عَمِلُوا ۗ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ (64)

    24|64| Lo! Surely to Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and the earth.136 He ever knows what (state) you are upon. And the day they shall be returned to Him, He will inform them of what they did.137 And Allah is knowing of all things.

    136. That is, it is not right for one who is owned by another - in this case the slaves owned by their Master Allah, the Owner of the heavens and the earth - that they disobey Him. He knows well how they are responding to the commandments and injunction being revealed (Ibn Jarir).
    137. The allusion is to those who slipped behind the cover of others, mentioned in the previous verse (from Tabari).